Tea For Two On Tuesdays

A great title. Heralding a friendship. One of those some people say can’t happen. Why? Well because I’m over 90. One doesn’t make new friends after a certain age I was told. If I were less of a lady, I’d say Bull…

I made new friends when I was 70, and when I was 80. My friends then were more or less my age – any new friends I make now that I’m over 90 are probably younger, perhaps a lot younger.

But then how we think about age changes as the years pile up. When you’re 15 you love being taken for 20 and  when you’re 30 or 40 you take it as  a compliment when they say you look as if you were twenty-five. Then of course once you’ve crossed the bridge of 50 you do like to have people think you’re at least ten years younger. On the whole it doesn’t really matter. The years behind you are never going to go away.

A couple of years ago on my way to the parking lot, a Japanese visitor passed and after saying good morning asked me how old I was. I was slightly taken aback – and wonder if interest in your age is typically Japanese. When I told him 88, he was duly impressed. One’s age though shouldn’t be based on looks. I no longer identify with the person I see in the mirror as I brush my teeth – or those that are still hanging on. I have stopped seeing myself as I think others may see me. Well, yes. Knowing my hair has thinned down considerably I wear a hat whenever I go out, for looks and not necessarily for warmth. Yet in thinking of my friends, their identity lies in their voice, in the way they move, as much or more than in what they look like. It’s what they have meant in my life that matters. So in addition to those who exist in my physical world, I can turn to and call friends those others I can lift off the written page. The part they play in my everyday life differs little from that of those I can reach out and actually hug when I see them. Both are part of my life, both are my friends. The main difference perhaps is that with the former I can argue and share my ideas, while with the latter it is more one-sided.  

So what is it that makes it possible for two people to think of each other as friends? Shared experiences, perhaps. A similar outlook on life. A willingness to help each other out.

As the years creep up, some friends fall by the way. They may have decided the friendship wasn’t worth it, in which case they weren’t real friends to begin with. But they are replaced by others who appear out of nowhere.

So back to tea for two on Tuesdays. We had become acquainted thanks to a project of his in which I could help for I knew the Orvietani, the possible venues, as well as the story he was telling. He was more or less my age, well no, actually there were 20 years difference, and  we found each other interesting.  He was a playwright and had countless friends abroad and had made many here in Orvieto near where he lived.

He walked the cliff endlessly, in part for his health. Our friendship began with a stop around three in a coffee bar for a cup of tea on Tuesdays. I’m not that fond of tea, but it was too late in the day for coffee and there really was no alternative. Soon though, as I settled into a new apartment in town, two for tea moved into my place.

We both looked forward to Tuesday. Our conversations ranged over the past and the present, and sometimes touched on the future. That future that was becoming somehow intangible or out of reach. Could we still plan for the future? Didn’t it now belong to that younger generation which relegates the past with its memories to the past, for they are living in the present, their hopes in an unpredictable future?

Then as will happen, an accident meant a move for my friend to an apartment right above mine, and Tuesdays turned into every day. Needs had to be met, both physical and psychological, encouragement as he reached out to take hold of a future that was no longer his to decide on.

Then came the time for him to move on, another apartment since he no longer “needed” others as much and our Tuesdays were now limited to exchanges on the computer, but a friend will always be a friend. And I am grateful in particular for this late “acquisition”.

New friends? This time perhaps they’re right. It would be difficult for me now to make new friends.

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