Hug for Pat
FRIENDSHIPS HELP PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S
Sitting in front of me is an AARP article titled Strategies to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s. Much of it is redundant of healthy living—exercise, eat smart, watch your waistline, cut bad habits—smoking, too much television, stress, take safety precautions (seatbelts, helmets)—all messages heard repetitively until they have become almost meaningless.
They listed one prevention method that caught my eye: FRIENDSHIPS. Keep friends close.
I just contacted my only remaining high school friend, Pat. She is about a month younger than I am, and I try to call her each year. For us, this is a special birthday year. Due to circumstances, however, I still have her special-year birthday gift here—she’ll receive it before my birthday.
Growing up I didn’t learn how to make or maintain relationships. That’s just the kind of typically dysfunctional family I grew up in. I worked two jobs in college, and that left me little time to develop friendships. Michael is my one friend from the technical school I attended. I wonder sometimes that I had no meaningful relationships formed at the University I attended.
After marriage I lived in a community where I did, as an expectant mom and mother, form relationships. They were tenuous, because my husband Monte, back then, didn’t socialize. Get-togethers as a couple were minimal. However, Shirl and Wayne became close friends, adopted as family. I missed them when they moved to Atlanta, and missed Shirl more when she died of ovarian cancer.
Then Monte entered the ministry. As the pastor’s wife I developed positive relationships in each community. In one community two women and I adopted each other as sisters. Two others—a blind man (now deceased) and a musician/writer remained friends to today. However, there were two factors that interfered in a deeper relationship. First, as the wife of their pastor there were some things I couldn’t share—woman-to-woman things. Second, when we left the community there was enough distance between us that we rarely visited.
In our last community I did manage to develop a couple more lasting friendships. They were with non-church members, and interestingly enough, one was Tom, a neighbor. His wife became a close friend as the years progressed. The other was the persnickety old woman who lived next door to us. I was, according to her, the only resident of the parsonage she got along with. To get along with her meant you had to give as much as you got—it appeared so much like arguing that one time a woman stopped us on the street and said I shouldn’t treat my mother that way. Yet, that was the only way she could relate, and I sorely missed her when she became ill, moved away, and eventually moved into eternal life.
Now, in my retirement, my three-score-and-ten years, I’m finally in a situation where I’m developing a group of friends in which there is no real or perceived power difference. It’s a growth experience.
- The old-fashioned friendship where the relationship is with an actual person, someone with whom you share continued common experiences.
- The new-fangled friendship—the Facebook or Twitter friend—are virtual beings who may be someone you know personally yet is more likely to be a friend of a friend, often a person you do not know personally, only on the screen of the electronic gadget you are holding in your palm. These friends are assigned value not necessarily because of anything they’ve actually done with you or for you, but because, well, they just exist in the world and so do you.*
The difference between old-fashioned and new-fangled friendships , as I see it, rests in the terms actual person with continued common experiences and virtual beings assigned value not necessarily because of anything they’ve actually done with you or for you, but because, well, they just exist in the world and so do you.*
Developing a friendship requires time, work, and commitment. George Washington instructed Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.
Friendship is not something that can be developed with a Tweet or a brief Facebook message, which promotes that the idea of friendship, is to attain as many of these not-really-friends as possible.*
A poll conducted in 2004 in which Americans were asked how many “close confidants” they had, the most common answer was zero. No wonder.*
Perhaps there needs to be some rethinking about friendships, about investing the time into them that creates the relationships that may help curb the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything. —Muhammad Ali
(A NaBloPoMo post)