This is the story of a 60-year friendship.
You will hear them first. A rugged group of older people huddled at a table behind the back of the bar, their own intimate setting where they retell stories that have been telling each other for decades. One of the men gets up and walks in a circle as if he was holding a beach ball between his knees to launch a line of blow to a story, while the others wipe the tears from their eyes. They are in their 80’s and have a better time than anyone else in the place.
They have been having a better time together for over 60 years. And boy, have they paid for it. Reviews of more than 148 different studies show that long, meaningful relationships reduce the risk of mortality.
Originally, it had been Carl and Zoe (my grandparents), and Ken and Nancy, Dick and Nancy, John and Janet, the Haaralas, the Carlsons. The happy gang. It was Carl who started calling them that, because every time this team of retired teachers, school administrators, and counselors met, he realized that everyone seemed very happy.
Men began their careers in education around the same time, all in their mid-20s, that is, in the early 1930s, all living within 25 kilometers of each other, all with a sensitivity that leaned toward mischief. They joined a bowling league together. This was around 1957.
Finally, they brought their wives and found that they all got along well. Better, they had a great time. So bowling turned into dinner at each other’s houses, that turned into night parties that turned into vacations with families. And the holidays became an uninterrupted date in Florida all spring break and extended travel across the country during retirement.
The gang welcomed the millennium together, everyone not quite sure what was going to happen, but knowing that everyone wanted to be together and mix cocktails if something happened. In a blink of 50 years, a friendship was forged, a mixture of ease and effort, humor, appreciation and openness.
A JOB OF FRIENDSHIP
They understand each other as easily as you understand your favorite book. As the children grew older and retirement came, and the Happy Gang members, or even the members’ children, got sick and passed away, the others still showed up and kept making plans, signed up, and went to the parties they planned together. .
They do the work, which does not feel like work, friendship, they have done it all these years, because it makes life more fun, more satisfying. So Carl and Zoe now drive 300 miles south once a month, at 80 years old, to attend a card game or dinner where they will sit at their favorite spot and hear Ken tell the story again about how He set his hair on fire years ago as deputy director. Because this is how they maintain friendship between them.