Instead of scooting about on outings with folks, I’d write for hours only stopping to ask my dad if he wanted salami on rye for lunch. Making new friends, not jus mere acquaintances, took a back seat.
In the past six years, I’ve made three new friends. Pitiful, you say? I’d have agreed once upon a time. Yet, circumstances change. I used to be hyper-social. The one office I was chronically elected to fill – social secretary. Because I possessed a motor mouth, folks automatically figured I’d make friends. Not always. Sometimes, people give wide berth to a blabber mouth. I understand why. Indiscriminate talkers can be trouble!
At any rate, as I aged, I found myself unwilling to engage in social commitments. I dropped out of clubs rather than dropping in. I became reluctant to call old friends or walk the extra mile. I got comfortable being alone.
Several factors contributed to my reclusiveness. I turned into an empty nester. With that comes more isolation. My four kids, who threw me into a beehive of social circles, are now gone. Simultaneously, my elderly dad needed care. I invited him to live with us. I quit my teaching career, which I had resumed only the year before. In addition, we moved from a rural town where we’d resided for 21 years to a community with spaced-out homes and retirees. The last nail in the coffin of my social isolation? I set a goal to become a published writer.
Instead of scooting about on outings with folks, I’d write for hours, only stopping to ask my dad if he wanted salami on rye for lunch. Making new friends, not just mere acquaintances, took a back seat. To form friendships in my mid-fifties seemed elusive. Yet, there was a lady who walked her dog each day. I’d met her once at a dinner party; she seemed congenial. When she stopped with her Shitzu to visit my Golden, contained by an Invisible Fence, I’d strike up a conversation. After a while, we walked a little together. Then, I learned that she had been researching her roots looking for an ancestor who had fought in the Revolution, as had I. We compared our interest in genealogy and remarked at what fun it was sleuthing. Soon, we joined the same DAR group. Then, she asked me to accompany her to a Bible Study. This became a weekly practice. I’d found a new BFF, Sheila.
While pursuing my new passion –writing, I attended writer conferences. Sometimes, I’d travel far to one, but because of care giving, this wasn’t easy. So, I’d seek ones nearby. The Florida Christian Writers of America hosted a one-day conference in Greensboro, North Carolina, only an hour away and on a Saturday, when my husband could eldersit. I went. Many attendees were ministers or like-minded, religiously-oriented folks. Many knew each other. At lunch, I approached a table with a teen-aged girl, her mother, and one other lady. I asked if the seat was available. The lady, with a welcoming smile, said it was. Later, this gal and I talked after the meeting. We discovered we lived in the same county, and our kids had attended rival high schools. She had two boys the ages of two of my three boys. We knew the same folks. Although our cars sported bumper stickers supporting opposing views, Connie and I clicked! She wanted to chat in a few weeks at a Starbucks to discuss writing. For several years now, Connie and I have met regularly for our coffee-infused literary conversations and for lunches where we discuss our similar caregiving situations or yak about our long distance parenting of 20 something-aged kids or our attempts at ballroom dancing. We have trekked together to out-of-state writing conferences, too. We have similar aspirations regarding writing, parenting, eldercare, marriage, travel, and life. Coincidentally, both of us were to become first-time mothers-of-the-groom that year! A serendipitous friendship was born by stepping out of my comfort zone and going to a place without a companion, forcing me to reach out.
My brother had a female friend in college. Her life paralleled mine in many ways, especially since her husband and mine have the same careers. When Barbara moved back to North Carolina, she knew few folks and remembered me from years before when we had met briefly. She emailed me and wanted to meet for lunch. Now we do this every month. We talk about our same alma mater, our similar political views, economics, eldercare, being married to country docs, her Jewish religion, bestsellers, and our kids finding their way in the world. Her zeal to go and do and find day trips inspires me because I tend to cultivate my own garden in my fenced backyard. I’ve learned so much from Barbara and anticipate our next mid-day get-away and wonder where it will be – the Raleigh Art Museum café, the Duke Gardens, or a swanky Asian fusion foodie-type eatery in Cary. I’ve made a new friend!
When my third son entered medical school, he remarked he was surprised he’d found so many good buddies. He didn’t think guys formed those same close ties after college. I viewed friendship the same way – at his age. I was surprised at the friends I made while a young teacher; after our move to North Carolina; and as I raised our four kids. Now, entering that era where I receive discounts at Belk on Tuesday, I’m still finding genuine buddies!
As a Girl Scout and later as a Girl Scout Leader, each week, we belted out that corny ditty: Make New Friends but Keep the Old; One is Silver and the Other’s Gold. I sang that song a million times never appreciating those simple words. As I approach my golden years and am making lasting new friends – not just social acquaintances or fair-weather friends or book club buddies – but authentic, “in for the long run” soul sisters, I understand how vital it is to reach out and bond with folks in whatever new situation life offers you.
Three real pals in six years! Not bad at all!