Artist's Lane: A walk with friends


By Betty Slade 

PREVIEW Columnist

My Sweet Al and I decided that it was time to take care of our friendships. Being quarantined on the Blanco has given us a great excuse to care for everything around us, just not so much for those far or away. 

Social media is a great lifeline to keep conversations going. But, nothing compares to a physical hug, catching a wink after a familiar comment or the feeling people share when sitting in the company of each other.

Like a treasure found along life’s journey, no value is great enough or relevant enough to compensate for what our friends mean to us. They block the path of pitfalls, pull us up and even talk us down. They are by our sides as we walk, an arm to hold us up when we don’t have the strength to do it on our own. 

We have let time lapse since we have seen some of our beloved friends. A few have passed on into the twilight before we could see them once again. We chide ourselves and say that we should have made time to spend with them before it was too late. Unfortunately, with life, late always has the final word. 

Bound and determined, my Sweet Al and I decided to stop any unnecessary trend. After just a day’s drive, we were sitting in the home of a couple we have known for over 30 years of our lives. There was no hello, just a call for dinner and a continuation of laugher that started decades ago.

We have a rich history together. Even when life took us in different directions, it’s fair to say that we continued on the same path. They are family to us, as we are to them. One word is all it takes and we are right back to where we left off. 

For years, the four of us sat around each other’s breakfast table and studied the word of God together. We would share what we learned and they would do the same. We’ve walked in total honesty with them. Nothing is hidden, even when there are differences between us. 

Our friend, who was studying for her Sunday school lesson, said her topic that week was on idolatry. It didn’t take but just a minute for my Sweet Al to perk up. 

“Dollar Tree? I love the Dollar Tree.”

In the safety and comfort of our friendship, we laughed. Then each person related to the response, leading to an even funnier conversation about hearing aids. 

My friend recalled the time when she spent $6,000 on hearing aids for her husband. He didn’t like wearing them so he kept them in his shirt pocket for safe keeping. My friend said that the only way she could appreciate the investment that she made was to talk to her husband — by talking to his pocket. 

Fun and levity have become a cornerstone in our friendship. And, as we age, we have found even more to laugh about. 

My friend shared a book with me with a perfect title. Its called “The Gift of Years” by Joan Chittister.

“There are three stages of ‘old’ in our society. There are the young old, 65 to 74 years old. The old, old, 75 to 84. and the oldest old, at 85 years and over. All of these stages have some things in common — and each of them face specific issues at the same time,” it reads.

The writer continued, “The burden of regret is that, unless we come to understand the value of choices we made in the past, we may fail to see the gifts they have brought us. The blessing of regret is clear — it brings us, if we are willing to face it head on, to the point of being present to this new time of life in an entirely new way. It urges us on to continue becoming.”

I hadn’t before defined what was called out as the various “old” stages in society. But, one thing is for certain, each has its own special blessing. Whether as a product of regret or through the continuation of becoming, there is a value that comes from our choices, even those we choose to laugh at. 

Final brushstroke: I wondered what to expect when I started thinking about turning one year older in a few days. Thankfully, it will be on the same path that I started on 79 years ago, one that has been filled with joy because of the friends that have accompanied me along the way. Yes, there have been the occasional regrets, but even with that, how beautiful to know that I am still experiencing the fullness of who I am yet to become.