Focus On: The Gift of Friendship

                                  It takes a long time to make an old friend

I came across the above quote while searching my scrapbook supplies for some materials to make a  card for a friend’s upcoming birthday.

How serendipitous, I thought.  I am sitting here waiting for the arrival of my oldest friend and I come across this quote!  Kathi and I have been friends since around 1967, so that, qualifies, I think, for a long time.  Most marriages don’t last 45 years!  And though distances have separated us there is a connection made with old friends that transcends time and distance.. The more of a person’s life you share, the greater and stronger the bond.

Isn’t it amazing how you can be separated from old friends by time, distance and circumstance, and yet meet up and immediately recapture the feelings and ease of being together as if no time had passed at all?  Kathi and I hadn’t seen each other for probably close to ten years, but when we traveled to Alabama to see her three years ago, it was like a time warp. The bodies may have reflected the passage of time, but .other than that it could have been 1967 all over again!

Good friends see you through many changes and challenges and their support is unwavering  and strong.  The oldest friendships have weathered the passage through adolescence, marriage, the birth of our children, raising and supporting them and each other,as they negotiate their way through life.  Friends see us through the hard times –  divorce, medical challenges , facing the reality that we have somehow moved from adolescents to senior citizens. You don’t necessarily need a lot of them, but  a few good friends are worth more than gold.

I also met my future sister-in-law, Pat, in high school, so she ranks equal with Kathi in the old friend category.We really became closer friends in college and along with our buddy, Joanne, had a wonderful time going to concerts, taking trips to the shore, and helping each other plan our weddings. When I married Pat’s brother, we were assured of being able to maintain our friendship as we became family. We travel back to NJ at least twice a year and Pat and her family come to visit us every summer for our annual family reunion.

When I married, I moved to Poughkeepsie, NY where new friendships were forged as we raised our children. I made many good friends there. One couple in particular, Denise and Geoff, remain close friends despite our abandoning them when we moved to North Carolina..  They are joining us on the Alaska cruise as they are celebrating their 41st anniversary as we celebrate our 36th.  We try to get together several times a year, and when we do we always have a good time. Raising  a family fills the best years of our lives, and I will remember the friendships forged during those years always. ( Shirley, that includes you).

Friendships are also forged in work relationships.  While in Poughkeepsie, my husband met an interesting character named Dick, and I soon met his wife,Debbi, and we quickly became friends.  I was home raising my boys at the time, and Debbi was working, so when her little daughter came along, I took care of her while Deb worked until her second child was born.  Jenny filled the role of the baby girl I never had.  When we moved to North Carolina, they did, too and although we lost Dick several years ago, Deb remains a  friend I can always rely on..

I did not work at first when we relocated to North Carolina and so another group of neighborhood friends developed.  My friends, Lisa and Kathryn, along with Jolie, Salwa and Diane had so much fun during those years playing tennis, gathering at the community pool in the summer, volunteering at the schools, planning parties and outings.  There is nothing more reassuring then having a strong support group to rely on.

But, as they say, to everything there is a  season,  and time passed, the kids grew up. Some of us returned to work, some moved out of the neighborhood or out-of-state. And although we try to keep in  touch, at least with a card at Christmas, it’s those halcyon days when the children were little that I’ll always remember so fondly.

I returned to work as well when my youngest started school, and my circle of friends enlarged to include the wonderful teachers and staff at the Sylvan Leaning Center where I worked for 19 years.  Out of that experience came a group of friends, which included Linda, Julie, Debbie, Karen, Michelle, Susan and along with Julie’s friend, Diane, and my friend, Debbi, we formed a book club and met monthly to discuss the book (about 10% of the meeting) and just catch up with each other’s lives (90%).  This group included young gals still having children and us now older gals, and it was a great mix of personalities. Once again, though, time moved on. Some of the girls moved away, we grew busy with our lives, several of us caring for aging parents,and it became hard to get together on a regular basis.

One of my friends, I think it was Linda, said that once you are a friend of Pat’s,  you’re a friend forever, and so it is.  I value my friends, I welcome their support and their wisdom . Human beings are social animals and it is especially important to keep those relationships close when dealing with life’s challenges.  For it is then that the true value of friendship is realized.  And so I host a gathering at Christmas every year to draw us back together, to keep the circle intact.

Linda and I, both retired now, have returned to reading and discussing favorite books, taking field trips to museums and gardens, learning how to make jewelry ,going to a movie, and just enjoying our time together.  I look forward to these outings since i am no longer driving.

My circle of friends has grown and changed over the years.  Sometimes people drop out, sometimes they drop back in.  The important thing to remember is to keep the circle going and to keep the circle growing.  Relationships within it may shift and change, but as long as it’s there, you are never alone.  And in the end, that’s what matters most.  For in the end there’s nothing better than having friendships that last forever.  And although it may take a long time to make an old friend, believe me, it’s worth the effort!

To all my friends, past and present,
and to those yet to come,
I am grateful for your friendship

Pat and Kathi; 1971

and when all is said and done
my life is filled with memories
of all the laughter and the fun
we had in our time together –
Love you, everyone!

Pat and Kathi, 2012

Pat and Bill,Geoff and Denise

Pat and Pat, 1975


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