Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 423 (174) Friend Turn Over

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

What's a friend worth? Of course, a price cannot be set on what a friend is worth. Money just doesn’t compute – or convert. Even republicans and democrats could probably agree on this. I think it was Aristotle who defined a friend as one soul in two bodies. If it wasn’t him it was someone like him; some great thinker. The Supreme Court justice who was trying to describe pornography might have also applied his definition to that of friendship. “I know it when I see it”

One thing about friends in today’s frenetic world; they have a way of moving on. Either they do or we do. An old friend of mine in Alaska was talking many years ago about the idea of moving “outside” or, “the lower 48” as the contiguous USA is called. I had suggested that it might be good for him to move just for the change. He quickly straightened me out with the statement that he didn’t have to move to have change. “All my friends have moved: either that or they’ve died.” he said. “In todays world you can stay right in one place and keep experiencing change all the time”.

He was a good friend, but emphasis on the “was”. We moved. He used to come to dinner, celebrate holidays and frolic with out children. Now we exchange Christmas cards and see him once a year for about an hour when we visit Alaska. There are others.

Friends usually emerge through common interests or common locations. We see the same people in the coffee shop or along our street and we strike up conversations. We slowly get to know each other. Sometimes these loose connections evolve from casual  acquaintance to friends.

I'm trying to think of our friends and how we first met and I think they all evolved out of common interests: human rights work or environmental type activity. We met at meetings or through other people we met at these meetings: friends of friends.

During our working career our friends tended to be drawn from work. We socialized with folks with whom we worked. We had a lot in common. We were about the same age and we saw each other on a daily basis.

Retirement brings another challenge into our lives. We no longer see the same people regularly. We have to find another source. We have made contact through community efforts that appeal to us. Art projects, music organizations, political efforts, parks and recreation projects or neighborhood activities. One thing about it: you have to put yourself out there. You can not sit at home and watch TV and yet bemoan the fact that you are short on friends.

Sometimes a friend from the past pops into our lives with a phone call, a Christmas card, or a facebook request. These are blissful moments; emphasis on “moments”. They just don’t last. There's no depth. We've lost contact. I have seen some old friends in the past few years and it was wonderful but somehow it doesn’t make up for the long dinners, the walks together in the woods and the close contact that emerges only in real time and real space.

“Friendship requires duration rather than intensity” some philosopher said. They went on, “He who has many friends has no friends”. I know that facebook calls our contacts ‘friends’ but of course they are really just acquaintances. Or, I suppose they could be called friends in a loose sense of the word. We were once “friends” or people we knew in one way or another. Don’t get me wrong. I like facebook. I like reconnecting with people from the past. I’m not sure I have made any new “friends”. It just seems like a devaluation of the word “friend”.

Many years ago a friend of mine gave me a bottle of wine. “It is really good wine,” he said. And then added, “If you open it when you have a good friend over it will be all the better”. How true.

This is Retirement Talk.



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