Look around. How many of your friends go back to your youth? And how much of your life have you shared with them? Do you only remember the fond memories, even though what makes your friendship special is the hard times? It’s funny how with those friends you can be as silly as you were when you were young, and as crazy as you feel like because those people know you like no one else. An old friendship is like nothing else.
I look around at the 60-year-olds I know and most of them have two or three friendships that go back a long long way. For many, their friendships have lasted longer than their marriages. And 40 or 50 years seems like it has gone in a flash. But the memories are very different to the reality.
It started for many in their youth and innocence, back in the 60s or early 70s when you were school buddies or friends at the local footy club. Life was rosie in those memories, full of moments of simplicity and happiness. You don’t remember being broke, being unemployed, getting pregnant before expecting it, or facing up to the really hard things.
But that is what great friendships are made of. You memories fade away to romantic parts, remembering the best bits and ignoring what made that friendship stronger. Do you ever take the time to remember the real reasons why you became friends and which of the times in your life those friends were most significant?
Do your memories look like this?
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My father-in-law met his best friend at the local footy club, as a 20-year-old. Their girlfriends met not long after. Those girlfriends became wives, and as couples, they became such good friends that they grew up through the next phases of life together. Each couple had children just months apart, and before long they were godparents to each others’ little ones. My in-laws moved to the sunshine of Queensland, not long after, their friends followed them north, to just two hours south of their new home. Again, they found reasons to bring their lives closer.
The kids became great mates, treated each other like cousins and the family bonds turned into family traditions of Christmas holidays spent together at each others’ beaches alternatively. Sounds like a wonderful set of memories doesn’t it?
It leaves out the fact that the men spend most of their spare moments away their families in the early days “bloking it up”, swilling beer and ignoring their obligations. It leaves out the battles with money and hardship, illness and cancer. It leaves out the arguments, the spats and the disagreements that had a grudge attached. It leaves out the fact that they sat on opposite sides of politics, and never saw eye to eye.
But the romance continues. 40 years on, the grown children are true family members still, who trust and love each other more than many cousins do. One of those dear friends was lost to cancer and its complications, and his wife has been through living hell in the fight. The friendship though has been there through everything. Through romance, hardship, battle, children, financial challenges, fights, worries and love it has come out on top. That’s the thing about the memories of friendship, its memories are so special that it leaves out all the tough stuff yet, those things are what friendships over 40 years are made of.
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When life got tough, these friends were always the ones who understood, apologised or helped. When loved ones suffered illnesses, battled cancer, or financial woes bit, they knew each other well enough to know how to help. Closer than close, friendships like this are some of the biggest blessings in life.
I watch our in-laws enjoy their times with old friends in a very different way to their new friends. With their old friends there is a great laugh to be had in sharing the history way back then. There is fun to be had remembering the careless moments, and the less solemn ones. And there is a great joy in celebrating how you became friends in the very beginning. Watching them, it makes me want to take really good care of my friends today so I can call them “old friends” when I get 40 years into our relationship.
I love this quote I read online: “Old friends hold a mirror in front of us and allow us to see how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go to be the person we can be”.
How have your old friendships evolved?