To Have a Friend

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Adelaide had been my mother-in-law for twenty-three years when my marriage to her son ended. We lived six-hundred miles apart, but as soon as she heard, she called me. I held the phone, tears dripping down my face, while she told me I’d always be her daughter.

Years later, she met my husband, Joel, and gave him an open-hearted welcome that quickly turned to affection.

Now ninety-eight, Adelaide lives independently in the house where she first welcomed me: an ill-at-ease college student hoping to win her approval. When Joel and I visit her, we sit together, chatting easily, as the Logan River tumbles by the living-room windows. She tells us amusing family anecdotes, shares her strong, informed political opinions, uses her iPad to show us pictures of her great-grandchildren, and serves us meals she prepares — though, increasingly, she allows us to help.

When she turned ninety, Adelaide planned a birthday party for herself. Ninety-two people, mostly friends because her family is small, showed up to celebrate the intelligent, soft-spoken, southern belle in her new lavender dress and sensible shoes.

During the party, several guests mentioned they were surprised by the abundant turnout. I wasn’t. Since the day I met her, Adelaide practiced the adage “to have a friend be a friend,” tending to hers with calls, visits, shared activities, dinner invitations, help without being asked, and letters that over the years became emails.

Recently, I watched a 60 Minutes segment about senior citizens who decades ago moved into a retirement community called Leisure World. Now researchers are studying the medical data that’s been collected on them since 1981, hoping to discover what those who lived beyond ninety have in common.

A strong social network is one of the predominant characteristics they share. Most had supportive friends and family members whom they saw or communicated with regularly.

I find myself thinking about Adelaide’s example and the research results. If I want friends as I age, I must be a friend, even when doing so requires time and effort or interferes with my all-important schedule and plans.

I will try to emulate Adelaide’s friend-keeping skills, and, like her, I’d rather do so without living in a retirement community — especially one called Leisure World.

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35 thoughts on “To Have a Friend

  1. Good evening Janet, what a lovely post, as always. A serene, dignified face and how good it is Adelaide lives near running water, I believe in it’s healthful properties. That and not being bitter, it really ages you. Leisure World…That I end my days in The Battersea Old Ladie’s Home- getting up to shenanigans..

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  2. Now there was a mighty guffaw, heading your way. I worked in a Care Home, (very briefly, an indiscretion with cheese) Doing the dishes one night I found someones teeth bottom of the sink, we will be able to share teeth stories too..Love it, Sheila.

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  3. Such a wonderful post in so many ways. Here is a woman who understands the value of caring for others. It touched me deeply, as it must have done so with you, that she reached out to you when your marriage to her son ended. That is a woman who understands that life is often challenging, and love is what matters.

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    • That is so kind of you to say. I sometimes feel like I have lots of acquaintances and few true friends, but I’ve been surprised by how quickly friendships have formed with fellow bloggers. That’s the main reason I keep plugging away at it.

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  4. pambrittain, your are certainly correct. I’m fortunate to have Janet as my friend for thirty-eight years. I’m amazed as I write that number because like many others my age it’s hard to fathom how quickly those years passed. She continues to be a true friend and I treasure her place in my life.

    I want to note that Janet has been a constant, loving presence in Adelaides life and now Joel brings his good-natured affection to Adelaide’s family.

    Janet’s relationships confirm my belief that a loving, open heart enriches everyone’s lives.

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  5. What a great post Janet. First-I love the photograph of Adelaide. It is the first time I have seen what she looks like! Imagine that. What would we do without these wonderful women in our lives? They add so much to our humanity!

    I laughed about the retirement community. Katie and Kelsey pointed one out in Bellingham and thought we might like it. I don’t want to be around just one age group, I want to connect with all ages.

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    • I agree, Janice. I enjoy where my home is because I see young mothers pushing strollers, teenagers on bikes, children walking to school, and older folks walking dogs and have conversations with many of them.

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  6. Adelaide looks and sounds like a wonderful lady. If only we all could age so gracefully. Her picture reminds me of my grandmother, who passed away at the age of 95. She, too, always made time for friends and family.

    Your post reminds me that I’m not as social as I ought to be! I’ll try to do better…

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    • Reaching out to others more often is something I’m working on as well, Rita. I’m a quiet person who enjoys solitary pursuits — like writing — so I’ve been making more of a deliberate effort. We’ll have to check on one another to see how we’re doing!

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  7. My dad who is almost 90 and my mother 85 have more of a social life than I do. They carpet bowl, and play bridge. They go to live theatres, art shows, and have a circle of close friends who they share it with. She always said; “Live each day as if it’s your last.”
    They don’t want to miss anything. Your mother-in-law sounds like a wonderful person that anyone would be proud to meet. Thank you
    for sharing this story.

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