old-friendI recently met an 88-year-old woman named Sheila at a party. Within moments she was telling me her life story, and I couldn’t get enough. Sheila told me about the recent death of her husband of 66 years. 66 years! How could someone be married for such a long period of time? What would it be like to be so close to one person for so many years, then have to go on living when he was suddenly gone? It was unfathomable to me.

She told me that the party was the first time she had ventured out alone since his death. It was time to step outside her comfort zone so, cane in hand, she hailed a cab and got herself to her friend’s apartment. I admired her courage. And her humor! Sheila kept cracking these sarcastic little jokes. She had me in stitches. How wonderful that this woman in the throes of grief could maintain a great sense of humor! One of my mottoes is that you’ve got to have a sense of humor in this life.

holding-hands-old-youngWhen it was time for me to leave, Sheila asked if we could walk out together. She seemed to be moved by my sincere interest in her life. We ended up sharing a cab. I walked her to the door of her building, where her trusted doorman took over. We exchanged numbers with the promise of seeing each other again.

When I got home I was grateful for having made a new friend. Beyond being lovely and fascinating, Sheila had validated something I’ve been thinking for a long time: We have no help or preparation for certain parts of life. We’re encouraged to focus on the first half of life—education, career, relationship, home, and so on—but we’re not prepared to cope with the rest: the empty nest, retirement, illness, and death. When that part of our lives begins, we may not know what to do with ourselves or how to grieve the loss of people who’d been the center of our worlds. These changes could leave us lonely and alienated.

I hope to be able to give some of that necessary support to Sheila, and I’m counting on her to rewire me on the process of grieving and death as we share more funny and moving conversations.

Have you ever befriended someone in a very different age group? What kind of perspective did the person offer you, and were you surprised that you could be close to someone whose age was so far from yours?

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Rose Caiola
Inspired. Rewired.

 

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5 Comments

  • Reese B.
    Posted April 7, 2014 8:32 am 0Likes

    Yes, I have a friend who happens to be 20+ years older than me. We have been friends for almost 7 years and we compliment each other very well. She has schooled me on a variety of life situations. I’m not sure what I would do without her. Thanks for sharing, I can definitely relate.

  • Jagdish Joshi
    Posted April 18, 2014 5:15 pm 0Likes

    Dear Rose, Greetings. Gone through ‘What I lesrned from my 88… Really it is nice piece of article. I enjoyed & thank you for having me privilege from you to read it. You will be pleased to know that, my all friends: males & females are senior to me by 15 to 25 years. I am the youngest of all. It is my personal motto since I was very young say 20 yrs, to have me or befriend with those who must be elder /older than me with span-gap of 15 to 25 years. Bcoz, I believe that if we want to learn much more other than formal education
    or in addition to it, we should make friend those who are highly older than our age. Wha my senior/older aged friends impart me life related reality is not accessible to school/college. They are living & lively biographies for me. Please mind well & brood over what I wish to say: If and once we be in company closely sitting & enjoying rapport with an octogenarian+ or a baby into the age group 3 to 7 yrs, no need to go to temple or church, for they ai.e.

  • Camilla
    Posted November 19, 2015 11:52 am 0Likes

    How beautiful to read about a friendship that is so rewarding on so many levels! Thank you for sharing your story for all of us to read!!

  • Madilynn
    Posted November 20, 2015 4:03 pm 0Likes

    Such a beautiful article, Rose! Thanks for sharing. We can learn so much from those who have lived life to the fullest.

  • Josie
    Posted November 23, 2015 1:51 pm 0Likes

    Most of my friends are older or younger, by 10 years. It’s kind of a weird mixture but I love it. I feel like my younger friends keep me curious and excited about life. My older friends give me riveting conversation on deep topics that I just don’t feel like I get with people my own age. I find age plays a small part in how I interact with them.

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