No Time for Rocking Chairs

A conversation yesterday with my friend Maryanne reminded what a pleasure it is to talk with a friend, and how important it is to sane, healthy thinking.

I’ve known Maryanne for more than 20 years, but we seldom see each other. When I first moved to Atlanta we attended the same church and saw each other often. In time I drifted into a different orbit, but we are still fond of each other and I think of her as an older sister.

Some of this flashed through my mind when I saw that she had called. It also occurred to me that years ago Joel and Maryanne had a construction business, and Joel was shocked to discover that at one point it was worth about $2.5 million.

He tells the story on himself, so I’m not giving anything away to say that in pretty quick order he managed to squander that fortune out of feelings of unworthiness. The good news is that although they had some very hard times, times that tested their marriage severely, they toughed it out and their relationship is better than ever.

Time for Adventure

How? At 57, Joel realized he wanted to be a minister. I’ll never forget being in the men’s group where he announced his decision, and he was grinning like a happy kid. He still has that happy grin, and a few years later, Maryanne, too, became a minister.

Before they retired a couple of years ago, they had been ministers at a couple of churches in the Atlanta area. What’s more, they consistently showed up as the happiest couple I know, and now they’re having the kind of adventures I hope I might have at any age.

Their travels have taken them to China, Egypt, Israel and Australia, and they have just returned from a 12-week trip out west. Driving a pickup and pulling a camper trailer, they visited Memphis, Arkansas, Oklahoma City, Taos, California, Banff and the Dakotas.

They hiked, kayaked, bicycled and visited with friends and family along the way. And, most remarkable of all, they’re still talking to each other. In fact, in two weeks they’re off again, this time to Virginia.

Thumbing Their Noses

I take their story to be hugely affirming. As a multiple offender when it comes to failed relationships, I especially admire their determination to save their relationship. In fact, in recent years they became relationship counselors.

The other thing is that they are in their 70s. Maryanne has lost a tremendous amount of weight in the past few years, and the hiking, kayaking and biking are new activities for them. In effect, they are thumbing their noses at conventional wisdom about aging and the notion that folks their age should confine their exercise to the rocking chairs at Cracker Barrel. 

Their lives are a gift to those of us who get mired in habitual thinking. They remind me that life can be — indeed, should be — an adventure, and that it’s never too late to get started. And as an expert at isolating I particularly need to hear the corollary, which is that it’s a blessing to pick up the phone and connect with a friend. 

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