The Shifting Sands of (My) Ageing
Elders and the Republican Healthcare Plan

Old/Young Friendship

It's hard to keep up these days and it is worrisome how Trump's daily eruptions leave so little time to spend with stories, books, music, ideas and people whose thoughts and ideas help explain the world, expand our minds and give us joy. The best ones also teach us something about ourselves.

But on Monday, I accidentally bumped into one of those - a charming, luminous story (and writer) to believe in and cherish.

It happened while I was driving home from a meeting. The radio station I tuned in was partway through an interview with novelist, poet and playwright, Victor Lodato, with whom I was not familiar. He was discussing his essay on “modern love” that had recently appeared in The New York Times.

When I got home, I tracked down the essay in which Lodato explains that he was in his early 40s when he met 80-something artist, Austin, who lived next door to the house he had rented in a town away from home to finish a new book.

”From the beginning,” he writes, “there was something about our interaction that reminded me of friendships from childhood, in which no question was off limits.

“On religion, she claimed to be an atheist. I admitted to being haunted by the ghosts of a Roman Catholic upbringing. She said her sisters believed in hell and worried about her soul.

“Austin, though, seemed afraid of nothing, least of all death. I said I was still afraid of the dark.

“'Living alone,' she said. 'It can make you funny.'

“I laughed but changed the subject, telling her I would like to see her paintings.”
(I stole this image from The New York Times. It is by Brian Rea and I think he caught the essence and beauty of Lodato's story.)

NYTIMESBrianRea

When Lodato's six-month lease was up, he renewed because he hadn't finished writing his book and more, because he “couldn't imagine a better neighbor” than Austin.

“What was perplexing, I suppose, was not that two people of such different ages had become friends, but that we had essentially become best friends. Others regarded our devotion as either strange or quaint, like one of those unlikely animal friendships: a monkey and a pigeon, perhaps.”

Austin kept painting and Lodato kept writing and they kept hiking and reading and cooking dinners together until three years had passed. One day, Austin showed Lodato a copy of the vows that had been read at a wedding she had attended:

“'I never had anything like that with the men in my life,' she said, pointing to the vows. 'We loved each other, but we didn’t have that.' She was crying now, something she rarely did.

“I took her hand and said, 'Well, you have it with me. Everything but the sex.'

“At which point, the monkey kissed the pigeon.

“That night, I had an odd realization: Some of the greatest romances of my life have been friendships. And these friendships have been, in many ways, more mysterious than erotic love: more subtle, less selfish, more attuned to kindness.”

Lodato's is a compelling essay, not the sort you stop reading until you get to the end but that paragraph did it for me.

“Yes,” I found myself thinking – maybe I even said it aloud sitting alone at home - and I would add one or two adjectives to Lodato's list: comfortable and comforting.

Or maybe, for me, it is mutual old age that makes friendship with men now as special as Lodato explains. Certainly easier than the sexual romances of my past. But there are a couple of friendships in my life where we are separated by almost as many years as Lodato's and Austin's too.

Friendship is a mysterious thing. You can't plan it and although you can put yourself in places where you are more likely to meet people, friendship cannot be forced. It happens. Or not.

But what Victor Losado's essay does is shatter common expectations of with whom we can find it and how magically it can happen so quickly sometimes.

EdgarandLucy200Losado's story is more deliciously complex than I have shown you and you can read it at The Times. His second book, Edgar and Lucy: A Novel was published yesterday and is available at Amazon, among other booksellers.

Comments

I read the story in the NYT and, yes, it is delicious. Not to mention lovely to read. Thank you, Ronni.

Thank you for sharing this Ronni. I love these stories about people who might seem to be mismatched, but really aren't. I had a similar sort of young/old friendship for close to two decades, after meeting my friend at a local Quaker Meeting that no longer exists.

Small in its best of times, this Friends Meeting ceased to be when all its founders -- all elders by the time I discovered the Meeting in the early 1980's -- began to pass away. I was in my thirties and my friend was in her seventies. We quickly discovered many shared interests and our curiosity about things that others didn't seem to think about much, led to lively discussions. One of my fondest memories of her and the Meeting was when she and I read and acted out Dr. Seuss's story, "The Sneetches" for a children's summer reading program at the Meeting House. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and she always found fun ways to share important lessons.

Brit died in 2011, at age 90, while I was in a nearby city taking care of my 91 year old mother-in-law. Both these women were bright lights in my life and taught me more than I probably still even realize. When she made her end-of-life plans, Brit asked that any memorials be directed to a local nature center and the Southern Poverty Law Center. And she left a book she wrote in the last decade of her life, about her eccentric upbringing and experiences, "Britomar's Road Diaries," by Britomar Lathrop. My autographed copy is one of my treasures. You can check it out on Amazon. It's a remarkable story.

I LOVE this blog! you bring up so much stuff that resonates with my 74 years of living that doesn't arise anywhere else. True, I don't read much stuff about elders, don't trust it much.
Beginning in junior high school, I would somehow wind up with elderly women for one or two of my friends, and they were precious to me in many ways. We shared enthusiasm for books, art, discussing the world in ways that others didn't, probably thinking me too young.
It seemed that though they seemed fragile to me, they were founts of wisdom, and patience for a young, developing mind. Thanks again, Ronni.

Wonderful story. Thanks for featuring it today.

Jan

Ah, Ronnie... This is why I read you. Because in the middle of the daily ordinariness that growing older is you find and put out there these jewels that remind me that there are still exciting things out there and I need to expend the energy to find them.

Thank you.

Wonderful!

I have a warm friend who is in her 80's and another who is living through the middle of her 40's, so at 67 I am fortunate to play both roles in such old/young friendships. Both friends are women. Both are close and trusted. With each, there is no awkwardness. We have different things in common, so conversations are stimulating, and I only rarely say, "I don't remember whether I told you...."

Now I'm off in search of that book.

Wonderful! Thanks, Ronni.

My marriage mirrors the age span in the post, and includes the full range of marital relations, with friendship that blossomed to romantic love. Nice to know we're not so uniquely alone.

I second what Denny so eloquently said.

Thanks, Ronni.

(I just put Edgar and Lucy on hold at my library. They have it on order.)

I read this column over the weekend and was enchanted. Isn't wonderful to just fall in love with people, regardless of circumstance, gender, age, etc? I once accepted a job offer that literally paid only half of what I had been making before because I fell in love the moment my potential new boss--in the middle of my first interview-- grabbed a photo of her dog and thrust it at me to admire. Sixteen years later, I'm having dinner with her and her current dog tonight!

Ronni, what a beautiful piece.

My ten year friendship with 92 year old K began after I dropped a flyer into her mailbox. K lived up my street, I love gardening, so after a I retired from teaching high school, my mom suggested I pimp gardens for seniors.

K called me and said she needed gardening help. I went to meet her and assess the job. Her property was yuuuuuuge!

So I yanked out weeds, dug up a million tiger lilies, trimmed cedars, threw down mulch.

Halfway into my job, K would call out to me from her front door.

"Coffee time."

I'd take off my dirt crusted boots and walk into her livingroom. We talked about life, her past, her happy marriage, politics, you name it.

A widow, K had kept her house. She knew every single quality repair person, restaurant. She and her husband didn't have children, but they sponsored an African child throughout his education.

When K told me she was downsizing, I bawled like a baby. But then she said she was going to live in the ILR two streets away and she would continue to keep my house key, for times when I locked myself out.

K was a busy woman, smart, on local committees, always putting in a good word for someone who deserved a break.

After K moved into the ILR, I asked about volunteer jobs. She said she would find out. It's already been three years since I began busing tables in K's ILR.

I drop in to see her a couple times a week. She has been apartment bound for six months with health issues, only going out for doctor appointments, and three times to the hospital by ambulance.

I do small jobs for her, and we have breakfast once a week at her place.

I never expected to have such a cool senior friend.

You never know what a chance meeting will bring.

Intergenerational friendships have much to offer all people involved. One of the challenges of growing older is finding opportunities for significant engagement with diverse age groups. So many of the things we do, places we go, etc aren't populated with many younger people.

What a beautiful essay. Thank you for sharing it with us and for the lovely break from the ugliness of our world right now. The pockets of beauty are still there even if we do have to dig through the muck to find them lately!

Wonderful. Thank you!

Thanks, Ronni, what a lovely essay. I've been taking a foreign language class for a few years mostly with the same group of people, all of whom, with one exception, are around my age (pushing 60) or older. The exception is a 30-year old woman who is in the class with the hope of being able to converse with her fiance's parents, who are still back in the "old country". This young woman has become fast friends with another female student, who is 85. From what I can see, the relationship is not one of a substitute grandmother/ grandchild. They're simply good friends who enjoy each other's company.

How wonderful when we can let down our guards and ignore our prejudices enough to see one another as just people.

Why Martha and I became friends, I'll never know. It was just the BEST friendship a person could have.
Your blog was wonderful.

Thanks again Ronni! This is a treasure that I've shared with everyone I could think of today...

Thanks for sharing. I'll check it out.

Lovely story, Ronni, and a breath of fresh air that I needed to read.
Im so tired of All Trump-All The Time.

I know we as seniors HAVE to keep on top of what is going on-and today, with the pushing thru of the poorly named AMERICAN Health Care Act. An act that is bound to increase our premiums drastically, your relating if this lovely story is a breath of fresh air.
You are so important to so many of us. Please...be well.
Elle

The Victor Losado story made me laugh out loud and cry quiet tears.

I read 'Edgar and Lucy' while a friend was struggling through his final days of cancer. I was familiar with Victor Lodato's book after discovering his delightful essay on friendship. His book was a fantastic journey, the upmost comfort to me. I wish him a joyous career of writing. It will be fun to see where his works take us. Thank you.

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