Over the weekend I finished reading The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow. This book really made me think about the value of friendship. The girls in the story are ten childhood friends who have remained close into their mid forties. They've supported each other through the joys and sorrows of the transitions that occur in women's lives including for them careers, marriages, divorces, cancer, and even the death of a child.
I'm different from them in that I haven't stayed close with my childhood or college friends. Recently I've gotten in touch with a few people through Facebook but it's been a long time and it's hard to fill in the empty spaces since high school and now.
I do have a wonderful friend that I met in graduate school that I've stayed in touch with over the years. In 2008 I presented her with a scrapbook chronicling our twenty year history together. She's been through many transitions with me such as career, marriage, and having a child even though her path has been quite different from mine. But we didn't know each other as children and I realize now the difference that makes after reading The Girls from Ames. In the book, one of the girl's father's succumbs to Alzheimers and the condolences that mean the most to her are from her childhood friends who knew him as a doctor and respected member of their community. Her more recent friends could not understand her sorrow in the same way they could.
For me, my unexpected midlife hearing loss has affected my ability to maintain various friendships. I no longer enjoy regular hour long telephone conversations. I crave emails and text messages over phone calls. In place of group gatherings, I prefer a one on one lunch in a quiet restaurant or a private chat in my home or a friend's. At work a quick update in a cubicle is easier for me than having lunch in the noisy cafeteria. I've looked for ways to let my friends know I still care even though I've changed my social habits. I'm not sure I've succeeded there. Reading The Girls from Ames has inspired me to try harder.
How about you? Do you have friends from childhood? Or like me have you put distance from your past? How do you communicate with your hearing friends and maintain ties with them? I'm open to suggestions. I'll leave you with the words to a song I learned as a girl: Make new friends, but keep the old. Some are silver and the others gold.