Me and my best friend

Last week we had dinner with my brother Pete and his wife Louise. We were at a restaurant in the Hyatt Hotel in Reston- a nice half way meeting point between our home in Fairfax and their’s in Mc Lean. Pre pandemic it was a fun place to go. Good food, quiet environment, clientele mostly contemporaries, and free parking. We had not been there in over two years. When I called to make the reservations I learned that the restaurant had been bought out by a very “hip ” restaurant. We did’t realize that with new ownership came a new clientele, mostly in the twenty to fifty age group, who preferred a noisy bar scene. Food was still very good. Parking was no longer free. We were so pleased to be together but it was noisy. We were grateful when the crowd started to thin and it was easier to hear one another.

I have been reflecting on our long and meaningful friendship with Pete and Louise and on the importance of friendship in each of our lives. I am particularly moved by the friendship words of Oprah Winfrey: ” lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus when the limo breaks down”.

When Pete and I and our brother Bud were growing up we were blessed with many older family members. And then their numbers started to dwindle. As I have mentioned in previous blogs great Aunt Rose was particularly good to me. I think she thought I was a bit too uptight and it was her goal to “loosen” me up a bit. I loved her very much, and was very sad when she died. I was about 12. I remember going with my parents and my brothers to the wake which preceded her funeral. Many in our big family had come together to honor Rose. There was a gathering room and a viewing room. My parents and Pete and Bud went into the viewing room. I stayed in the gathering room with family and friends but really more by myself. I was just too upset. After a while my brothers came back to be with me. I nervously asked how great Aunt Rose looked. I can’t remember which of the boys replied but one said, ”Well she looked OK till she realized you were not there with us. Then she sat up and said,” where is Peggy Ann?” (the name she always called me). This was such a silly response it made me smile and finally gave me the courage to enter the viewing room and pay my last respects to my beloved Aunt.

Great Aunt Mary, Rose’s sister, was the last of that generation to pass. She died at 97. I became closer to her when I was a student nurse at Cornell University. The Cornell nursing school and med school are both in New York City. They were not far from Aunt Mary’s apartment. She would frequently invite me to dinner. It was such a gift to share my student nursing experiences with her. She had been a student nurse in the 1890’s. As Mary’s friends and family members passed I was introduced to the concept of old age without contemporary friends. It was a concept that I knew but didn’t really understand the significance. But now I do.

The Hyatt in Reston where we dined with Pete and Louise was a place we often went for dinner with our friends Moira and Al. One evening in particular stands out. When we walked from the Hyatt parking garage to their restaurant we passed through the hotel lobby. It was so crowded . There were lots of small groups gathered together. Some were singing softly and they were good. When we got to the restaurant there was again the low murmur of singing coming from various tables. The waitress explained that it was a convention of barber shop quartet singers. They were projecting such a happy energy that when our dinner was over we were having such fun with Moira and Al we decided to walk around the hotel and scope out what was going on. The hotel had a big auditorium with an endless number of rows of chairs. We ended up filing in there with Moira and Al and hundreds of the conventioneers. We felt a tad silly but again we were having such fun. The various groups that performed in the show that followed were outstanding. At a break in the entertainment an officer of the national organization got up to talk. He gave an impassioned plea that members attend the national convention that was coming up in several months. I think it was going in San Francisco. He asked for a show of hands for those who might be able to attend. He had been so impassioned I couldn’t believe it when no one raised their hands. I looked at Moira. I could tell that she also felt badly at the lack of response. And then we realized that Jerry and Al were both raising their hands. And when those who were going to the convention were asked to stand, Jerry and Al did and finally more folks joined them and the speaker was satisfied. Moira and I were astonished, glad and a little giggly at what our guys had done. When the speaker was followed by a brief intermission we left. Moira and Al were such close friends. It was hard when they both died. Moira first and Al in the last two years. Good friends are a special treasure – in good times, in tough times and in silly times.

Now that Jerry and I are in our mid eighties we are grateful to have survived some difficult health issues. We take nothing for granted. We are very aware that each day is a blessing. We are fortunate to have a supportive and loving family and to have close friends. I don’t think one needs a lot of close friends. A close friend is a treasure. One you may have frequent contact with one another, you can then go for years without seeing one another and then when life’s circumstances bring you back together again you pick up the friendship as if there has been no time lapse. Jerry and I have just started up again a book discussion time with our friends Bob and Dot. We last did this with them in the 1960’s when we lived near one another. Now they are in North Carolina. We meet over Face time about every six weeks.

This morning I got a phone call from a dear friend Chris. Her husband Jim is in the hospital. A month ago we golfed and had dinner together. Another couple that we are close to is Jan and Bill. Not too long ago we played bridge and had dinner with them. Bill is now recovering from a stroke. Each day with family and friends is a treasure – not to be taken for granted.

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