golden girl friendships

March 26, 2014

friendship


A few weeks ago, I attended the EAC Network‘s 14th Annual LIGHT OF HOPE Luncheon at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, NY—an event responsible for raising close to $115k, benefiting the not-for-profit agency’s 70 programs throughout Long Island and the greater NY metro area. Between toothsome bites of fire-roasted chicken, I exchanged hellos with the women seated at my table—lawyers and headhunters, every last one a stranger to me, and as we clinked glasses and quickly turned to a table of laughter I was reminded of how beautiful strangers can be.

The love of our lives are, ultimately, our friendships. --Stephanie Klein

OUR VERY BEST OF FRIENDS TODAY WERE ONCE ONLY STRANGERS TO US.
It’s a gift we don’t teach our children, what with “stranger danger” and all. But it’s also something we too often forget as adults. I see too many people clinging to the groups they know, unwilling to expand their friendship “network.” By “network,” I don’t mean Facebook connections or other social media interactions. I mean the way we choose to extend ourselves, the way we choose to include others. Leaving our comfort zones and walls of familiarity to sit at a table where we don’t know anyone else. The table is both literal and metaphorical.

Luncheon, Crest Hollow Country Club, Woodbury, NY

Bookended between our conversations about raising teenagers and our trying to make friends with women who don’t behave as if they are teens themselves, a speaker from EAC Network’s Meals on Wheels caught our attention. 73% of the elderly live alone. 75% are women. “They were secretaries. Teachers. A lot of them can no longer drive. Mostly, they’re women who live alone, and the only person they see is the person who delivers their meal.” That person is their lifeline. It’s not just a meal; that’s their companionship. The only human contact they have the entire day comes from that EAC Network Meals on Wheels volunteer. I imagine some of these women, once upon a time ago, had their own version of “frenemies,” their own lifetime of dramas and daily stress, worries over parenting and job security, health scares, and plenty of joys. Now they live alone, without anyone to visit, save for a volunteer, who comes if the program is funded and supported.

We should all be so lucky: To grow old with a group to call our best friends.

I thought about all the years I spent single, searching for “the one,” unable to realize that “the one” I was really searching for was me. But beyond that, in the end, statistically, the love of our lives, as it turns out, aren’t really our husbands. It’s the friendships that keep us afloat, the women who help us parent our kids and our parents, the women who shave their heads with us, who analyze our emails before we send them, who hear our good news first, who make us feel awesome and remind us of how awesome we are when we forget. They’re the friends who stop over with a meal and an ear, ready to listen and to laugh, eager to make a memory of our day.

Sex and The City: The Golden Girls 2.0?

ABOUT EAC NETWORK
EAC Network helps children who are abused, people struggling with addictions, parents in need of counseling, children caught in the foster care system, frail, elderly individuals, those seeking alternatives to incarceration, at-risk people seeking employment, people who need mediation, and those who need help meeting life’s basic needs.

go ahead, ask

*This is NOT a sponsored post, and I was in no way compensated or asked to share this information.

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8 Responses to “golden girl friendships”

  1. Ulli Says:

    There is a commune in Amsterdam where elderly people live together. It sounds amazing amazing amazing and progressive. A lot of them move there when they are still absolutely able and willing and there is a mutual sharing of experiences and such. Another program I recently read about was a service where community members like you and I commit to cooking one extra meal per week to share with an elderly neighbor. the stories out of that service were amazing because real real deep friendships were formed. Our elderly neighbors have a lot to share and teach us. Makes me feel sad that so many are alone.

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      There are so many young people who feel alone too, isolated, bullied. People who could use a sense of proportion and perspective, a reminder that there’s a world happening outside of their own personal dramas… wouldn’t it be wonderful if organizations existed that paired up such odd couples? Mentors, really, who need the young just as much as the young need the guidance. I know these exist but many young people are often “afraid” of the elderly. Not of violence or dementia but of the unknown or the general idea of the elderly, not even of the reminder of their own mortality, no– in fact, quite the opposite. I believe many people see the elderly as so distant and removed, so dissimilar from who they are, as foreign, so they are afraid of “the other.” A little education or “eldercation” could go a long way.

      Reply

  2. Jane Says:

    Wow Stephanie! What a wonderful worth-while endeavor to get involved in. Making people aware of the loneliness out there, hopefully can make a big difference.

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      I don’t know how involved I am to be honest. But I was stirred enough to write about it, and it has been on my mind since, which means something is brewing. I’ve volunteered for CityHarvest when I lived in Manhattan, and for years I volunteered at The Interfaith Nutrition Network, also here on Long Island. Then, for The Girl Scouts. My volunteer work lately has been school related, and I’ve considered the Girl Scout troop thing again, which would involve many hours of volunteer work across many organizations, including educating the girls about organizations such as Meals on Wheels, etc. Though I will admit, the most eye-opening “really puts your life into perspective” work I did was at the INN, working with homeless single mothers and their children in shelters. It was wonderful, and the people I met there I’ll never forget.

      Reply

  3. stephanie Says:

    this is a beautiful post. simply stunning.

    Reply

  4. 3 teens' mom Says:

    I love non-profit work – I started a thousand years ago as a volunteer, and then have spent my entire career furthering important and amazing causes.

    My sweet gram lived to be 2 weeks shy of 99 years old. We moved her close to us when she was a spry 95 year old. When she first got here, I realized old people kind of scared me. They seemed so frail and lost. But then I got to know my Gram in an every day sort of way. She was the queen of the assisted living center, brightly greeting everyone who came into her room with a cheery, all-Texas, HOW-DEE! How we all loved her.

    Taking the darlings to visit her at first was a challenge – they had the same fears and observations, but she quickly won them over and in a very short time had the most visitors of anyone in the place.

    Time moves in a different sphere for lots of old folks. She was perfectly content spending an afternoon in her big chair watching her favorite ‘rainbow people’ prance across the wall of her room (we hung faceted crystals in her windows so she could enjoy the parade). It hurts my heart to think of all those old people, alone day after day, waiting…waiting…

    Reply

  5. Jo Says:

    There is an organisation in Australia that houses a senior citizen with a young person (often a college student)in the senior’s house. The student gets the benefit of the subsidised rent and a unique landlord and the senior gets an income and company. Whilst it is an odd situation and could easily be problematic if a bad fit is made some lifelong friendships have been made. It is one soluation to lonliness of the elderly. There was a hearbreaking situation in Melbourne where a woman was found years after she had died. With no friends nor family no one noticed her absence. Maybe instead of spending time looking for the illusive one we should be making friendships and being part of a community that will notice if we aren’t there?

    Reply

  6. Brown_eyes Says:

    Thank god I live in Mexico. The elder live with their children here: this is not up for discussion, it’s an honor. If our parents changed our diapers when we were young, why shouldn’t we change theirs when they are old?

    Reply

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