A dear friend is moving away, and that is sending all sorts of shock waves into my life. For one, she is going a long distance, and while her friends are promising to visit her after she is settled in her new home, we all know that’s not the same as being able to pick up the phone and set a time to get together later that day. Also lurking in the back of our minds is awareness that she will be out of reach should we need the vital help of a friend. While we are happy for her in her choice of a next chapter in life, we are selfish in viewing sadly our imminent loss of her regular companionship.
We have known each other, she and I, for almost 40 years. We met through the newspaper, as I have met so many wonderful people, and over time our friendship developed. We share a lot of the same interests: zipping into the city with tickets to the theater and enjoying a good dinner and glass of wine before or after the performance; lustily cheering on the Yankees in their stadium; wandering through museums to chuckle over the same funny exhibits; being in awe of James Levine as he conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in Massachusetts; comparing notes after a fabulous concert by the Emersons at the Staller; playing competitive tennis singles in the good old days; and talking over problems with our children as they were growing up. The idea that she will not be easily available to share those activities makes me morose.
I am at the age where friends are, for one reason or another, leaving. While I lost my husband 28 years ago, I have always regarded that as an anomaly. Who expects one’s spouse to die at 50? But now we face a fearsome trend: Two close friends have died in the recent past, as have three first cousins; now one more friend is joining the parade of those moving away.
She is, of course, entitled to her own life. And while it is hard to forgive her for leaving, all her many friends and I understand why she is moving.
She has gone through the many-tiered ordeals of picking up roots and going elsewhere: getting her house ready and then putting it up for sale; researching movers and hiring one; sorting through her accumulated stuff of half a century and countless souvenirs dragged back from many trips in the world; taking care not to leave behind dental and medical records; shutting phone service and arranging to have mail forwarded — and heaven knows what else.
Then there is what I would imagine to be the hardest part of all: saying goodbye to longtime and maybe not-so-longtime friends.
As she ages, our friend doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone. This is one noble aspect of her character, and she believes she has found a solution to that perennial dilemma of every generation. Our times have provided facilities to meet the needs of the aging with assisted living, where an individual’s physical and mental requirements are met, even as they change with the years. And she is moving to a place where she will have her children nearby to oversee those needs but without having to be the primary caregivers. It sounds like a good deal.
Which drives the question home to the rest of us: How will we best cope with the inevitable infirmities of aging if we are lucky enough to live so long?
Reality is tough. Dealing with it is even tougher. My friend has implemented what she believes will be the least burdensome, most efficient solution for herself and her family. In so doing, she has underscored yet again her totally unselfish nature.
Not all of us are of such exalted character. We cling to our comfortable possessions and the familiar structure of our lives as if we could forestall change. But of course we cannot, and so each of us has eventually to come to terms with the endgame of our lives.