I was fortunate to have been born with a happy spirit. My early childhood was not idyllic, but I was blessed with parents who loved me and the pleasures of growing up in a peaceful rural area of the Northeast. Adolescence was agonizing for me; I was chubby, socially awkward, and “bookish” — not exactly prime dating material. My greatest dream was to be happily married and have children of my own; I thought all I had to do was be a good wife and good mother and things would fall together perfectly — and then real life happened.
As do many senior citizens, I look back now on my life and treasure the good memories — and there were many. I am also aware of the sad memories, the storm clouds, which had a huge impact on my life. We all experience both great pleasure and great sorrow in our years on this earth — it is the yin and yang of our existence. Even now, as we reach the years when we can slow down and our responsibilities are not as demanding, there are storms we must walk through — family strife, illness, financial problems.
I find that it is much easier to walk through these storms with the help of friends. By the time we reach these “golden years,” it is especially important to find pleasure in the company of friends our own age. We all have our stories to tell, and problems to ponder. Somehow there is a comfort in hearing a friend say, “I know exactly what you are going through,” or to have someone hold your hand and listen to your story with compassion. Our children have busy lives of their own, and they find our memory lapses annoying and don’t have the time to listen patiently as we repeat ourselves in conversations.
Friends are important throughout our lives, but I believe that in our later years, they become vital to our well-being. Their lives may have been very different from ours, and their problems may not be the same as ours, but we can offer each other the gift of time — time to listen, time to care, and time to laugh together. We will experience wonderful days as we age, but there are always storm clouds just over the horizon. Friends can celebrate the wonderful days, and hold on to us tightly as we navigate our way through the storms.
I am reminded of a favorite quote from an unknown source:
“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”