Some of my favorite friends have been five or even nine times my age! Through these intergenerational friendships, I’ve shared in wisdom through the ages, and I wouldn’t have it any other way….
Marguerite asked me to pronounce her name “like margarita, without the final ‘a,'” and as a young girl that always made me giggle. Through the church’s volunteer program to assist seniors, my grandma, “Dokie,” read the newspaper to Marguerite when her eyes began to fail. Dokie drove her to the grocery store once a week, and she helped cook the eggs.
The skin on Marguerite’s body was interestingly transparent, with scattered patches of red, black and blue. Her bruises resembled mine. Though mine were on scraped elbows from bike wrecks and hers were from falling in the shower, we had a connection. Nine times my senior, I enjoyed visiting Marguerite, too.
As her health deteriorated, Marguerite left her home in Albuquerque and moved into an assisted living center. This community would allow her much autonomy, and she could come and go with my grandma as she pleased. Nurses were available for emergencies and housekeepers kept her floor vacuumed in perfectly parallel lines.
Attached to her high rise awaited another community. She would be able to move “next door” to the nursing home when her medical needs increased. She would have help being fed by spoon if she needed it, and nurses would count and administer her pills.
And I would get to hug her each day as I left work, clocking out on my little yellow time card and heading down the hallway to her private room. My very first job outside of our family business was in Marguerite’s assisted living community. Wobbling around in heels too high for a 14 year-old, I greeted residents and families in my role as front-desk secretary. I rushed oatmeal to their tables on Sunday mornings in the dining hall as a server, only to learn that what they really wanted was for me to sit down and chat. I loved learning about their lives, and they loved living vicariously through my life outside those walls. My favorite role remained checking in with my friend, Marguerite.
She taught me about the hard life in rural communities on the plains, born 101 years prior. Appreciating the beautiful friendship she and my grandma shared, she thanked me for bringing light to her life, too, and she heightened my value for meaningful friendships. She gently handed to me one day, now tucked away for my daughters’ daughters, the quilt she had hand-stitched as a young girl on those plains, the needle pricking her fingers well before the age of commercial quilting machines.
I choked up again, mid-hallway, the day I clocked out and, by daily habit, headed down her hallway to say goodnight. …I relished those times when her smile would welcome me into her arms.
VALUE IN INTERGENERATIONAL FRIENDSHIPS
There can be great value in intergenerational friendships.
Because Ralph befriended him, my husband got to share the wide open spaces of Wyoming on camping trips and hear perspectives about big game hunting. Ralph saw value and loyalty, even in the midst of unkind relationships. The antler belt buckle worn at my husband’s waist reminds him of the life lessons he learned from Ralph.
Ross fostered examples of pride in workmanship. My husband also learned from him that mentoring people unlike you can be mutual beneficial. And when Ross shoved a couple hundred dollars into Shepard’s hand and said “now get the hell out of here, kid,” on their last visit (as my husband set off to California to begin his adult life), Shepard learned that we all don’t show love with the same words, but it can exist none the less.
Thankfully, my grandparents took keen interest in helping to raise me. In addition to learning about finances, business, and how to bake brownies properly, they exposed me to a variety of people, lifestyles, and experiences.
We would pile into their motor home and meet up with their east coast friends in the back hills of Utah. I would climb through the arches, my shoes red from the sticky soil when I returned to the campfire. We would gather around the fire, and I’d listen in while the four of them drank whiskey sours and shared a world well beyond my city-life cocoon. Nearly forty years later, I taught Harriet and Bob how to take their first “selfie.”
WISDOM OF THE AGED
When we earnestly seek – and listen – we can learn so much in these intergenerational friendships, and share mutually beneficial value.
Senior generations have the opportunity to share a lifetime of wisdom and experiences. They can lend value to another person’s life, perhaps through story-telling or example-setting. Often eager to live vicariously through the eyes of younger ones, interesting new topics can be fulfilling learning opportunities, too. And there is much to be said for youthful squeals in inciting a wrinkled smile on a worn face.
“Old souls” clamor for meaningful relationships with people who have more maturity and life experience. I may just be considered such an ‘old soul,’ I guess. Finding comfort when sitting with those younger than I AND with the aging, I believe there is reciprocal value in all of these friendships.
People with more life experience remind me how little I know, how to face trials, what is truly important. I should stop caring what others think, and make more time for what matters. Some have taught me how to recover from loss, a natural part of every life. Others have shown me what a wuss I am, complaining of a sore joint in my forties. (Oh, poor me!) I’ve received much business advice, the serial entrepreneur that I am. I am richer in ways far beyond money for their investment in teaching me.
Exploring life with younger people, I am now finding myself in the role of the mentor, too. I now am the one with experience in business, interpersonal, spiritual and professional realms. When did *I* become the one with some wisdom?! 🙂 I am thankful for all of these relationships, and I am better because of them!
What is it that YOU find valuable and beneficial in your intergenerational relationships? Do you have wisdom to share – or to glean?