FRIENDSHIP

This morning I had breakfast with an unusual group of men. For more than forty years some of us have been getting together on a regular basis. Most of the participants have doctorates in various disciplines ranging from theology to psychology to the sciences. Occasionally a real estate broker or a male intensive care nurse might join us.

Our meetings have no agenda and our discussions can range from the bawdy to the ridiculous to the sublime. Most importantly, we cause each other to laugh and we nurture each other. In the contemporary argot we engage in male bonding. Over the span of so many years, attrition is inevitable. Only two of the original founders of the group remain and several have become infirmed or gone to their final reward. Two of my best friends have had recent major surgery. Each have suffered a significant post surgical impairment of cognition. Suddenly they appear to be on an accelerated pathway to the way of all flesh. It is painful to see their deterioration. As the poet so eloquently stated, “so fallen, so lost, the light withdrawn which once they wore, the glory from those gray hairs gone forevermore.”

Why Am I telling you this? Perhaps I am talking about loss. My mother, at a very advanced age, often complained that all of her friends had gone. Yet, those friends that have gone are tucked away in my memory. They remain in that depository where they continue to entertain me. I have gotten to the age where my own mortality is a minimal preoccupation. With aging comes a tranquility unknown in midlife. The battles of life are over and we have nothing left to prove. The impediments presented by testosterone toxicity have diminished. No longer have we a need to struggle for dominance. No longer is appearing vulnerable potentially dangerous and unacceptable. Unfortunately establishing new friends becomes more difficult in the aging process. Hopefully this can be ameliorated by strong family ties and continuing contacts with surviving old friends. For senior citizens, keeping socially connected is not a luxury. It is the veritable life blood of our remaining years.

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