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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

Friends Who Will Be There Whenever We Call

My friend, Ann (who, by the way, I hadn't seen or talked to in at least three decades) and I reconnected at a 50th reunion with a group of sorority sisters from the University of Michigan. I'll admit: I wasn't that keen on attending. I wasn't sure I had much in common with the others, except that we were all in our seventies and had shared a similar college experience at a prestigious mid western university.

Ann had been my roommate junior year, been a bridesmaid in my first wedding (I've had two), moved to Chicago where we helped make her transition a smooth one, and then disappeared. I don't mean disappeared like in an episode of "Dateline." Just disappeared from my life. (What made our "breakup" even more painful was that Ann continued a relationship with my ex-husband. What was up with that?)

Now, I'll admit that I was not a truth teller as a 36-year-old. That took maybe another fifteen years. I stewed, replayed imaginary conversations over and over again in my head, but never once picked up the phone to talk to Ann and express my disappointment and hurt. It was easier back then to continue the habit of stuffing feelings under the rug and hope that they would just go away. Poof.

By the time I saw Anne at the college reunion, I'd grown a pair of cohonies. I'd discovered through trial and error, that direct expression in a nonjudgmental way cures just about everything that ails you. People don't dislike you because of your sincere honesty; you give them a gift, an open invitation, to respond to you in kind.

And that's what Ann did. Though she had no memory of what caused the rift between us or, for that matter, that there was a rift, she apologized in that soft, soothing voice that encouraged co workers, friends, and family to listen up.

Ann looked better than I'd remembered. Her dark brown hair, now sprinkled with light highlights, grazed her shoulders. She'd kept in shape and, as best as I could tell, was rock solid without that soft belly and tire around the waist that many of us older women juggle. (Jiggle?) Ann is dealing with a progressive disease but showed no signs of self-pity. Instead, she is running marathons and is active in a group of senior who find relief from the complications of Parkinson’s and much more by regularly attending a boxing class called Rock Steady Boxing. You can check out her book, Steady As A Rock, on Amazon at:

And now Ann has written a book about women and aging titled New Old Friends. The book is about, according to the blurb on Amazon, "a special group of women in their 90s, who can see age 100 on the horizon. It is based on interviews as well as informal conversations with these women. All reside in the same senior living community; all have had wonderful lives. And, all have experienced great loss, great sorrow in their long lifetimes. . .But they are in life to live."

There is so much to learn from these women about how to enjoy new friends, stay active, invested, to carry on with a spirit of not just endurance but of joy.

Reading New Old Friends had me singing Carole King's classic "You've Got a Friend." Though James Taylor's version got all the play, King said the song wrote itself and is about how friends can be as important as family.

Here's to all the women in our lives who will "come running" whenever we call.


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