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Friends You Haven’t Met Yet

By Sue Fretwell

I did it. I bought a condo by the beach. My belongings have been packed, movers are coming today, and I will be there tomorrow. Goodbye, dear house, the home where my kids grew up. Thank you for sheltering us all these years and for all the memories we experienced here.

This is how it was the night before my big move to the coast of North Carolina twenty years ago. I’m eighty now, looking back on the good and the bad in my life. Relocating to the coast was unequivocally one of the best.

Why was it such a great experience, you might ask? How could you leave your friends, family, and home for the past three decades?

It was actually an easy decision to make. I was tired of the life I’d had in Georgia. I was tired of the reminders of hard times and tired of a huge house to maintain. I was a widow, my kids were grown and gone, the dog died, and I knew I wanted a total change. That change had to be near the sea, a lifelong dream I’d imagined so many times; I just had to do it. The day I turned sixty, I began my retirement and never looked back.

It took a couple of months to decide where I would go. I traveled solo from Atlanta to the nearest coast and started my trek searching for the place that would “sing” to me. My trip ended in the Blue Hill area of Maine, with many stops along the way. There was a condo overlooking Casco Bay that I fell in love with. I wrote a deposit check and then headed south to sell my house as quickly as possible. But there was a special place on the coast in North Carolina I wanted to look at again.

Well, that was all it took. The little fishing village was walkable and charming and reminded me of both Maine and Hawaii, not to mention it would be warmer than Maine in the winter. This condo was way more affordable than the one in Maine and had a small view of the Cape Fear River and Intercoastal Waterway, with just a short drive to the beach. And the folks I met there were so friendly!

This is it, I told myself, as I opened my checkbook to make a deposit, knowing I would lose the substantial one I made in Maine. What I saw was astonishing and truly clinched the deal. There in my checkbook was the deposit check I apparently never gave to the agent in Maine! We were so busy gabbing that both he and I forgot about it! 

Friends were concerned that I wouldn’t know anyone, but I believed there were friends there – just friends I hadn’t met yet. And were there ever!

I joined the local Newcomers Club, then joined a book club, and then formed my own group for senior singles. I took up photography and started a small business making calendars of the town out of my photos, which led to my joining the Chamber of Commerce, dealing with shop owners, and having booths at local craft shows. Most of the other homeowners in my complex were just weekend visitors, having homes in nearby cities, so there weren’t many neighbors to get to know right away other than at meetings and pool events the board arranged. Eventually, I was on the board, too.

There was a coffee shop in town where several of us gathered most mornings. Some I knew, and some I didn’t, but a nice core group of about five were there daily. This was before our country became so divided politically, and we could discuss politics civilly! The liveliest conversations and disagreements ensued, and still, we all departed as friends. The good old days!

With all these connections and groups, I became well-known in town while still maintaining a good bit of solitude. Several of my new peeps became dear friends, just as I expected. 

A huge perk was reconnecting with a long-lost cousin and his wife, who lived a ferry ride across from me. We hit it off so well that we eventually dubbed ourselves ‘the three cousin chums.’ In the seven years I lived there, I think we averaged getting together at least three times a month.

Most evenings, there were amazing sunsets over the little harbor, an easy and beautiful walk from my condo. Sipping wine on the deck of one of our favorite waterside restaurants/bars, there was almost always someone I knew there to share the delight. There was a Tiki Bar at the end of the path from my condo to the marina, where there was nightly music and dancing, and everyone knew your name.

Moving to a new place at the age of sixty where I didn’t know anyone was the best thing I could have done at that time in my life. It gave me renewed vigor and revived old interests I hadn’t time for in decades. 

I learned that I could start over anywhere and have done so twice since that first time. Even at eighty, I am confident that wherever I go, perhaps into a senior living situation, there will be plenty of delightful friends I have yet to meet!

Haley Brandon

Haley Brandon

Articles: 26

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