LESSONS LEARNED FROM AN ADULT FRIENDSHIP: MEMORIES OF LOIS
By Howard Fishman
Adult friendship can be difficult to navigate.
Friendships forged during younger years, when the canvas of our life has only been lightly sketched upon, are a cozier fit. We can weave strangers more tightly into the fabric of our days before the layering on of commitment and responsibility hems us into narrower pathways.
Friends who come to us in the latter part of our lives arrive fully formed. They touch our lives only now and then. When time permits. When calendars coincide. There’s less emotional investment. Less intense bonding. More willingness to let a relationship play out slowly over time.
We tend to be more risk-averse as adults. Wary of what’s different or even mildly uncomfortable.
New friends might dance to a drum-beat we cannot hear. Subscribe to a philosophy we can’t identify. They could be a misfit within our familial universe. Our built world. The world which we protect.
Or we can release our fears and get lucky. Discover someone who paints so far outside the lines that their differences enchant us. Draw us in with a siren sound difficult to resist.
You know the ones. We once called them Bohemians. Hippies. Free-spirits.
When we brush up against them now their brand of light can be less threatening. More enticing. We might be provoked to slip without protest into the deep end of the friendship pool in anticipation of a great journey.
Lois Was That Type of Friend
Lois was an acquired taste.
At the outset, I was the interloper who’d upset the rhythm of her solo friendship with my soon to be spouse.
I played the newcomer. Trying to prove myself worthy of inclusion, while she remained coolly noncommittal. Perhaps she was waiting to see if I’d make it to the finish line with her beloved, long-term friend.
And over time, as she made her evaluation, I witnessed her eccentricities play out in front of me. A showcase of fascinating, sometimes contradictory attributes.
Purple hair. Purple car.
Then bald. In solidarity with women undergoing cancer treatment.
The counter-culture way in which she defied social norms with her sartorial choices.
The idle talk, rife with details concerning people unknown to us. But people for whom she cared, unreservedly.
The way she skimmed the surface of her emotions without diving too far below to visit the wellspring of deeper feelings.
The laugh. Deep and purposeful. Causing her head to thrust backward from the sheer energy of it.
Lois was an enigma, but an endearing one at that.
And The Very Thing That Dared Not Speak Its Name
Lois was a hoarder.
Hundreds of boxes, strewn randomly about the house. Merchandise ordered by phone. Merchandise ordered online. Stacks of delivered items. Mostly left unpacked. An ocean of brown cartons set adrift on three thousand square feet of beige carpet.
One had to literally carve out an area to walk. Push aside a box to sit. Force one’s self to want to be there at all.
A house filled with things seemingly not needed nor used. But only at first glance.
A ukelele. An electronic piano. Side tables with built-in wireless speakers. A floor matte connected to a monitor that offered instruction on tap dance. A magenta bean bag chair large enough to sleep upon. A century-old ceramic clown collection gathering dust behind a glass-doored cabinet.
Over the years she’d talked about each one of these prized possessions with an intoxicating enthusiasm.
More spirited than Auntie Mame. More perplexing than the beguiling Aunt Glady’s on television’s, Bewitched. Magical. Endearing. Entirely benign and without malice.
Lois generously allowed people to enter her menagerie as if to say: This is who I am. I trust you will not judge me.
Suddenly None of it Mattered
Late one Sunday night, years after Lois had moored herself to us as an intimate, cherished part of our married life, an alarmed friend who’d been unable to reach her, called in a panic.
Something was wrong.
After several texts and calls without response, we drove the short distance to Lois’ house. After a few loud bangs on the door drew no response, we used our key to gain entrance.
Moments later, we found Lois face down on the bathroom floor.
What we had each silently dreaded on the drive over had become our new truth.
The paramedics had difficulty moving a gurney through the front hallway. And an even harder time navigating through her bedroom. The embodiments of her eccentricity now served as an impediment to her health and safety.
Multiple brain aneurysms, we were told. And in less than a week she was gone.
Gifts From My Adult Friendship With Lois
As that solemn week progressed I thought of three important lessons I’d learned about friendship. Things Lois had taught me.
It’s not easier or harder to develop an adult friendship later in life. It’s simply more purposeful.
The number of years that build a friendship is less important than the content and integrity of those years.
The less judgment, the more trust.
I could not have guessed at the beginning of my time with Lois, the imprint she would ultimately make on my soul.
Fearless. Adventuresome. Creative. Musical. She embodied the sensibility that good things came in small packages.
A hoarder of things. Maybe. A collector of friends. Definitely.
It was tempting, at first, to define her as someone far from the mainstream. But in the rush of that week, the bountiful number of friends who’d surfaced to express love and admiration for her, illustrated well how she was, in fact, the center of her own universe.
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