“I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I doubt I deserved my friends.”
—— Walt Whitman
Yesterday I visited with my favorite Aunt Lucille who lives in Beaumont which is ninety-nine miles east of Montgomery on Texas Highway 105. I always enjoy my visits with her. She’s got spunk, and contrary to Mr. Grant’s opinion of spunk on the Mary Tyler Moore show a gazillion years ago, I like spunk. She refuses to give up her independent living apartment in a retirement community that offers assisted living and other levels of care for which she would qualify. Instead, she keeps her mind active with crossword puzzles and word games in the daily newspaper, and her knowledge of current events acquired through the TV and conversations is as good as it gets. She pushes herself out of bed and showers and dresses and puts on makeup every day. My aunt will be ninety-three years old in May and has a list of ailments and a personal pharmacy to treat them. A recent setback makes movement even more difficult for her, but she has rebounded and makes a determined effort to rejoin her friends at their reserved dinner table downstairs almost every evening. It’s a long walk from her apartment on the third floor to the lobby of the next building for meals. Trust me.
Yesterday she told me one of her friends was coming by in the afternoon for a visit. I recognized the name because she had talked about Jan for as long as I could remember. She told me Jan was recovering from a stroke and her caregiver would be bringing her by. When Jan arrived promptly at two o’clock, Lucille got up from the sofa in the living room and pushed her walker toward Jan’s. When they met in the middle of the room, they both smiled and hugged each other with genuine joy on their faces. After introductions all round, we sat down to talk.
Lucille and Jan met in 1953 when they both lived with their husbands in an apartment complex in Beaumont. They first talked when they were outdoors hanging clothes on the clothesline behind their apartment building. Both women were new to Beaumont and Jan’s daughter was born in the spring before Lucille’s was born in October that year. They were new mothers and became new friends. Their husbands luckily liked each other, too, and the couples got together often. Lucy’s husband Jay died in 1979 and Jan and her husband Otis shared a sixty-fifth wedding anniversary before his recent death.
What struck me as I listened to them talk about their families and what was going on in their lives now was how remarkable it must be to have a friendship that stretches across sixty years of change and challenges. Their bond survived everything life threw at them. Hot and cold seasons came and went for six decades, but their loyalty to each other never got too hot to go up in flames or too cold to freeze and wither away.
In a separate happening this week I was reminded of friendships I’ve lost and the pain of losing them. We are a mobile society and our moving parts rarely stay in the same place for very long. We change our homes and jobs and the people in our lives that go with them. Sometimes we just change the people in our lives. Regardless, a true friendship for sixty years is worthy of a tribute and this is mine for Lucille and Jan.