Friendship is not a big thing . . . it’s a million little things that add up to be a huge part of our life.

By Leslie Quintanar  

A Picture Tells A Thousand Words . . . and Memories

The photo accompanying this post was taken at my wedding just over 18 years ago. The five ladies in the picture have been my friends since high school and a couple of them even date back to junior high days. We still keep in touch, albeit sporadically these days, mostly due to the fact that we are married, working, raising children, and embroiled in those “busy” years. I’m the furthest away, with the rest all residing on the east coast. So much of our communication is via text, voice mail, and the occasional phone calls. I think of them often and miss their friendship, especially in the sense that we don’t get be in as close proximity as we once were years ago.

Unconditional Acceptance

I love that I don’t ever have to explain myself, give an overview of my past, or even try to embellish things and keep up appearances. They take me as I am and love me in spite of all my flaws, of which they are all very well acquainted. I also know that years could pass and when we see one another it would be, as it has always been, as though no time had ever elapsed. I count myself blessed to have these women as a part of my life and I know that a part of who I am today is due to their friendship and love for me. 

Friendship Has No Boundaries

As remarkable a blessing as these friendships are to me, it makes it all the more poignant as I look at some of the lives of those who live in senior communities and no longer have the kind of friendships that you and I currently have. They have outlived friends, spouses, and, in some cases, even their children. They long to have someone they can connect with, share their thoughts, feelings, and just be themselves.

What I have found in many cases is that I have discovered some true friendships, despite the decades of age difference, because I’ve met those souls with whom I’ve been able to connect and develop a true affection, and age no longer presented a limitation.

Connections That Transcend Age

When I left a community a few years ago I shared my departure with one of my dearest friends there and we both wept. Not just cried, but wept. You see I had grown to love listening to him talk about his life and his adoration for his former wife. Equally, he reciprocated by being genuinely interested in my life — my husband, kids, and job.

Morning after morning I would come into the community through the dining room and the highlight of my day would be stopping by the breakfast table to chat with Stan, Annie, and Grace. I love them all, not because they were great residents, but because they had truly become my friends. We had a mutual affection for one another, a whole-hearted acceptance of each other, and an interest in one another’s well-being.

There was also Harriet, the remarkable woman who, in her ninth decade learned how to use the iPad. She demonstrated over and over to me how to be an exemplary mother, and most importantly, showed me that I should never lose my curiosity and love for life. When I see her occasionally, it is as warm and welcoming as if I had just been in her apartment conversing over the latest email tips.

Each of the individuals I have just mentioned, like those lovely women in the photo, have become my friends — and, while decades of time separate our minds and bodies, our hearts have found the common bond of friendship that transcends age.

For those of you who work in various senior living settings and come into contact with others who may be years your senior, I urge you think about them as people, not just as those we serve.

Don’t be afraid to delve into their lives, open up your heart and communicate with them honestly. You just may find some really remarkable friendships waiting to blossom. I hope that when I’m in my eighties I’ll be able to have all those dear women in the photograph above still in my life.

However, I also hope that I’ll have made some younger friends who share my perspective and look beyond the years to see that friendship is a connection not bound by age, but by heart.