Poetry the Universe Writes to Itself: Aging and the Gifts of Friendship
Friends can bring us back to ourselves. Over Thanksgiving with old friends, we each see ourselves in the others. Three of us have known each other for 57 years and we’ve come together for over 40 of those years to share the holiday together. We were freshman in the same college dorm at the University of Michigan. Our future wives entered our lives not long afterwards, anywhere from one to seven or eight years later. We see in each other how we’ve aged, faced threats and tribulations, pains, and losses, inspirations, and successes. How we are facing life now.
And it’s all out there for us to talk about. Right in front of us. Each friend with their own gifts and limitations. We give each other tips, perspectives to help us prepare for the next months, years, moment. We talk about illnesses, present and past work experiences, roof repairs, water pics, other friends, podcasts, music videos, movies, books, philosophy, and sleep. Sleep is so tenuous for half of us who, each night, have no idea how much or where in the house we will sleep. Nothing is assumed. We speak of dreams and family members. Deaths and losses. The threats to our world.
And then there’s the joy. So much to be grateful for. For the food, certainly. And sure, it’s an old stereotype, but all the men played football in one form or another when we were young, yet none of us attended a football game after our sophomore year. After a few years of college, it seemed so meaningless and violent. But sometime in our 50s, we began to pay attention once again and listen for scores. Especially Michigan v Ohio State. This year, we watched together, shouting and cheering. Even the women were drawn in by the drama and emotion. And then my wife and I had to leave early to return home. Ohio State was ahead by 3 points.
But about 3 hours later, still on the road, my wife checked her phone for the score. Michigan 45, Ohio State 23. We won. We actually won. We called our friends. What a celebration ensued.
And when we arrived home ⎼ we have 3 cats, but we couldn’t find any of them. They hide from our cat-sitter even though she feeds and talks to them. Sometimes, they punish us for leaving by not showing up. But this time, in 5 minutes or so, one emerged from the basement, one appeared by the door as we brought in the suitcases. Twenty minutes or so later, the third came up behind us, crying. They all cried for food and contact. And when my wife and I sat down later to eat dinner, they sat with us.
This year, something extra sat with us. There was a darkness in the house not attributable to the night. A warning in the air, or in me. How many more of these returns do we have? Aging is not about winning but presence. In the dark was a reminder to take in this moment more deeply. To embrace it as much as possible. To do everything I could to give back. This is all there is ⎼ feel it. Enjoy it. Be thankful for what we can be thankful for. Be kind, caring, even if it hurts. Pet the cats, love my wife. And maybe we will let more of the light in….
**If you live in Georgia, please vote on Tuesday, Dec. 6, to help protect your right to vote, the right for women to make their own health care choices, to protect the environment, Medicare, and Social Security ⎼ to help stop the politics of hate. Bring water, a photo ID, and friends. No matter where you live, you can help get out accurate voting information.
***To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.