Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Old Friends: Saving the Best for Last Bonds Formed Later in Life Are Close to the Heart

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Old Friends: Saving the Best for Last Bonds Formed Later in Life Are Close to the Heart

Article excerpt

WHEN a friend said she thinks it's unusual to make good friends late in life, my first reaction was that she couldn't possibly know such a thing, because she's not even 50 yet, and what does she know about later in life?

My second thought was that she'll learn that it's not true, anyway - that some of life's best friendships are made later in life, although the proof would be in determining, exactly, the perimeters of "later in life," which is a task I'll leave up to you.

An old friend - in length of acquaintance, not age - occasionally and somewhat facetiously reminds me that when I was 28 I considered 50 late in life. Now I figure late in life to be around 80, although when I hit that age, that friend, who will be 88 herself, will no doubt occasionally and somewhat facetiously remind me of when I considered 80 to be late in life.

Tracy Kidder's "Old Friends," recently released in paperback, tells of a friendship between a pair of nursing home roommates, and in this case, the "old" does refer to age. When they meet, one is in his 90s, the other, early 70s, both in deteriorating health.

Kidder, whose book is a picture of U.S. nursing homes, makes his story universal by focusing on these two, whose mutual fondness and respect quickly give them an optimism with which to view the world outside their room. Clearly, this is the most important friendship either has known in their respective, productive lives.

"Late in life" is when your children grow up and leave, annoying physical symptoms never disappear entirely, the face in the mirror isn't the one in your mind's eye, someone you love dies. And, blessedly, this is also the time when friendships are primary, the most basic of relationships.

You form them because you're a grown-up; you know what you admire in another and what you abhor, and you don't have to cultivate somebody for business or social reasons. …

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