Good Old Friends

Way back when Older Eyes was brand new, I posted Old Friends … , which used the Simon and Garfunkel song of the same name and the final scene from the movie, Stand by Me, as vehicles to consider friendships from two perspectives.  The former offered the somewhat patronizing view that the old friends sitting in the park were waiting around to die, while the latter offered the notion that we never have friends as adults quite a good as those we had when we were twelve.    To both of these notions, I say bullshit!   At sixty-five, I have the best friends of my life, and if you should happen by while we’re sitting in the park … or any of our other haunts … you’d find we’re a vital bunch, more interested in filling what’s left of our lives with capital-L Life than waiting around for the end.  And while I’ve certainly been fortunate to find such good companions, it’s not all chance … my attitudes toward friendship have changed with age in a way that makes good friendships thrive.    That’s why one of the best topics in the father’s journal, A Father’s Legacy, is Share your idea of what makes a good friend.   I’m writing this post to pass along what works for me to anyone who’s interested here on Older Eyes and to my children on A Dad’s Legacy, the blog I”m writing for my kids.

I’ve known the people I would put on my Good Friend’s List for between fifteen and forty-five years, my wife being my oldest and best friend.   Bill Cosby has a very funny routine about the difference between wives and friends but it’s comedy and simply not true for me.   Wife-friends are different than guy friends but no less friends.    But it’s pretty obvious that time alone doesn’t make good friends … sometimes it makes for Good Enemies and sometimes just for people that we’ve known a long time.   The glue that makes good friendships of acquaintances is walking through good times and especially difficult times together.    Together means that they were willing to be at my side, to listen with compassion but not to just rubber-stamp my actions.    I’ve learned as an older adult (what I didn’t know as a younger adult) that good friends should say, Bud, what are you doing? when they think I’m wrong and offer suggestions even if they tick me off.   Each of my good friends nudges me gently toward being a better man.   I also notice that my good friends have the ability to laugh at themselves … which is, I think, a sure sign of a compassionate person and if they can laugh at themselves, it’s easier for me to let them laugh at me.  I can take myself too seriously and sometimes need to be laughed at.    I guess you could say that a good Two-Sided Sense of Humor is required.

I know someone who says that you should be able to say absolutely anything to a friend and another someone who says that you should be able to talk about anything with a friend.  If you are lucky enough to find a friend like that you are very lucky but they are few and far between.    My two someones  don’t have a lot of friends.    While it’s important that my friends and I have areas of common interest and agreement … preferably passionate … as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that my circle of friends grows larger and more satisfying if I allow for pockets of disagreement and difference.    I don’t discuss music with my wife … she likes some music and I feel most music … that used to drive me crazy but I’ve come to realize it is just one small pocket of difference in a great marriage based on common views of family, friends and values.    With another friend, I avoid politics because we have the best discussions on spirituality.   The man I turn to with relationship and professional issues can make me crazy with his engineer’s views on art … so sometimes we kid about it, but discuss it we don’t.    I would turn to our oldest friends with nearly anything … except a discussion on animal rights.  When I was younger and felt a need to always express my opinion on anything that came up, I kept people at a distance … and people at a distance can’t be Good Friends.  Now, I let them be Good Friends by ignoring our differences and sometimes, I even come to appreciate them.

I have the best friends of my life because I’ve learned to look for similarities among the differences and to listen sometimes when I’m less than fully interested or disagree or have no idea what they are talking about.    I’ve learned I don’t want cheerleaders or clones but friends who challenge me to be better, both with their words and their examples.   I’ve learned to show them my authentic self and look for theirs.    Beyond knowing that I shouldn’t try to change them I know that I can’t, so it’s accept them or demote them to acquaintances or colleagues or people I once knew.  That is truly a positive aspect of feeling older.

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One Comment on “Good Old Friends”

  1. territerri Says:

    It was good for me to read your perspective on friends. As I did, I realized there are many in my life I could be closer to if I learn to accept differences. There is one I thought to be my very best (girl) friend, but am slowly learning that the relationship is more about me putting up with her being in charge all the time. And as I realize that I would like to be entitled to my opinion now and then without being scoffed at, I also am realizing she’s not the friend I thought she was. Not that I’ll give her up. She’s just not who I thought she was. And there is another who I have begun to realize over the past year is likely to be a lifelong and true friend.

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