When my parents came to Washington, DC in 1941, there was a small, but strong group of young people who became lifelong friends. As the youngest child, I was “doted” on by these members of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.” It was common in those days for women to form various clubs, complete with a constitution and bylaws. They had their own kind of mission statement and met monthly.
My mother belonged to a club called “Questors.” When it was Questors night, my mom took a shower after dinner, put on her Sunday clothes, including a girdle and a fresh pair of nylons. Sometimes her nylons had the black stripe up the back. She made sure the line was straight. I remember watching as she manicured her nails, powdered her face, and applied eyebrow pencil, mascara, and lipstick. She looked perfect to me, and she smelled so good. I would stand next to her vanity with the 48″ round mirror, watch, and wonder what it would be like to be a grown lady.
Later, my mom’s club faded and was replaced by a group my parents and their friends called “The Whiz Kids.” As couples, they met once a month on Sunday evenings and discussed books, politics, music, art, travel, history, and often invited guest speakers. They loved learning together and their friendships were deep and lasting. Most of them lived away from their extended families so their friendships filled that need for belonging and closeness.
I watched them meet together and heard their spirited conversations, sometimes serious debates, sometimes loud laughter. I watched them grow older, travel together, and shower each other’s children with wedding gifts and then baby gifts. They visited one another in the hospital, supported each other as spouses passed on, and were there for each other in every way. They were like my extended family, too.
I’m thinking about them tonight after visiting a friend of mine who is in the hospital. She fell in her home and was on the floor for 4 days before she was discovered. Severely dehydrated and with many other complications, she has been fighting for her life. Our friendship has spanned 40 years and though we’ve never been particularly close, we have a mutual respect, and I care about her. I know from my parents what it means to be a friend, even though I haven’t experienced friendship in the same way they did. But I realize that as we get older, it’s important to be looking out for one another, to not let too much time pass between contacts. We all come to the end of our days at some point. It helps to know that we are not alone.