Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 613 Friends

This is retirement talk. I’m Del Lowery

My friend John and I use to go biking at least a couple times a week after work. We would ride swerving from side to side. Explore new trails and streets and usually end up at an ice cream shop or coffee shop. We went for fun rides, not serious, hard core rides. He made me laugh. He was the funniest guy I ever knew. We joined a health club together; lifted weights, play racket ball or just hung out and BS’d. We’d go to lunch. Get in trouble at work. Sometimes rescue teachers or students whom we thought had been mistreated by someone – any one; other teachers or administrators. We would skip out on required teacher workshops and make light of whatever we thought deserved it. When the administration decided that teachers would not be excused to go see the Pope when he visited Anchorage, we cheated and went anyway. That’s what I call a friend. Two people, both going the same direction – at least some of the time. We really were quite different people. I think that’s why we got along so well. We complimented each other. I’m not sure who was the bad guy and who was the good guy.

I’m sure we all have those moments when we think we don’t have any real good friends or not enough of them anyway. Friends have a way of coming and going. Like my friend, John. We haven’t seen each other since we both retired over thirty years ago. He moved and died in Panama City, Florida; a long way from where we settled in retirement. I miss him.

Almost a decade ago I was advised to join Facebook. I was told it would really help me gain listeners to this podcast. I joined. Then I started getting emails telling me that so-and-so wanted to be my friend. I felt embarrassed, cheap, shoddy, and abused. Friends always meant more to me that someone mailing me their name and then assuming I was their friend. What is that? I did know these people. Their names were in my computer address book, but – friends? I don’t think so. I mean, some of them, yes, but most were people I would be more like an acquaintance, someone with whom I had done business or met in a meeting or group. This casual reference and procurement of “friends” offended my sense of the true value of real friends. Eventually I capitulated to the new norm and accepted Facebook for what it is.

“He who has many friends, has no friends”. I think Aristotle said that. That idea came from some college class in the far, far distant past. Life experience has supported the truth of it. It seems like developing friendship requires a certain amount of time. Duration, not intensity, is necessary. That’s why it is so much fun to run into an ol’ friend. You have so much history that it is very easy to just take up right where you left off many years ago.

What I really wanted to talk about was how to get friends when one is a bit short. I wish there was a quick and easy way, and perhaps there is, but I don’t know what it might be. When my wife and I consider our immediate friends, or friends at the moment, people with whom we feel this strong connection and trade dinner invitations we discovered this history of how we met: Amnesty International Meetings, collecting signatures for a ballot issue, two former students – one is a student I had forty years ago and the other is a student I had in class perhaps thirty years ago. Another friend is someone I meet through working as a volunteer with the parks department. Another I meet through playing the classical guitar. Another I met while running for political office. He was a big help in a lost cause. These are friends that have recently been to our house for dinner – more than once. That seems like a pretty long list. I’m surprised. Of course, there are many other folks that we know but have somehow not been dinner companions on multiple occasions. I’m trying to be honest.

Most were met through volunteer organizations or efforts in which we participated. Maybe that is the answer to finding friends: volunteering. I guess that is a pretty good deal. You not only get to join with others in some sort of community effort, but you get a friend out of the deal.

Of course, it should be said that some people remain friends all of our lives. They may live far away; we may not see them often, but there is a strong bond that never seems to weaken. These are the friends produced from mutual caring, and have endured the test of time. They are the best kind. I take that back. I’m not sure they are any better than the most recently found friend; all friends are valued. At any rate; some old Greek said that friends are two people with one soul. That sounds good to me.

Now if we could just get them whenever and wherever we wanted…

This consideration seems to point to getting out of the house and joining with others in some endeavor or another. You have to reach out or step out. Friends don’t just show up at your dinner table one day. You have to make the first move. Either that or die alone.

As a little postscript: here we are residing as Snowbirds for now over one month. We have not joined in any groups nor participated in any activities as volunteers. And we have made absolutely no friends though people we have met are exceptionally friendly. I must add we have had lots of relatives and old friends stopping by. I guess we just don’t feel the need.

This is Retirement Talk.

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