I have been reflecting on the importance of having inter-generational friendships, in relation to the type of society in which we live which is riven by a huge paradox.
Thanks to the Internet-expedited social media revolution, never in human history have we been so inter-connected at so many levels worldwide as we are now. This fact co-exists with a rising tide of human loneliness, especially amongst older people, who in terms of life experience are probably the richest members of our human community.
Today I have decided in my own small way to bridge this paradox, by using the Internet to tell a very personal story of inter-generational friendship which I hope will inspire other people to reach out and make connections in their own way across the generations.
In 2012 I decided to return to work part-time after a long career break. Since some of my work involves making recordings both of one-to-one sessions and of classes, I needed to familiarise myself with digital MP3 recordings. My trusty old tape machine was now well and truly out of date! Worse still, I felt very ‘rusty’ as far as making recordings was concerned and did not wish to inflict myself on an unsuspecting public without having had some practice. But who would I ask to be my guinea pig?
One morning – in the shower, where I always get my best ideas – I hit on the idea of asking a good friend two decades older than me whether I could make some recordings of her life history. She was born in 1928, just before the stock market crash of 1929 which ushered in the Great Depression.
One of my main interests is looking at individual human lives in relation to the Big Picture. So, getting my friend to tell her life story against the backdrop of the most turbulent, changeful century in human history seemed to me to be a wonderful project to set up for my MP3 recording initiation. But would she do it?
Of course she did! Peggy, my good friend, is always up for a new ploy. We embarked on our recording sessions in the spring of 2012. Twenty sessions and one year later, our project was complete. Peggy now has three copies of her life story, unfolding through those recordings, to give to each of her children. In typically irreverent fashion she said to me, in response to my enquiry regarding when she would be giving them out: “They can listen to them after I’ve kicked the bucket!!”
It was a privilege and an honour to do this piece of work with Peggy. To round the whole thing off, we did a concluding recording in which we reflected on the experience, what we had both gained from it (Lots!!), and how important it is for us all to make good friendships and connections throughout our whole lives.
There is plenty of irreverence and laughter in this short recording, as well as seriousness and poignancy. Peggy and I have decided to share it with you. We hope you listen, enjoy, let us have your feedback –and hopefully feel inspired to embark on something similar yourselves.
We only hope, if you do, that (as once happened to us) a bulldozer doesn’t start noisily digging up the road just outside your window as you begin your recording session!
550 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page
10 thoughts on “Some thoughts on friendship: Anne and Peggy chew the fat…”
that is a lovely photo, and peggy looks like an amazing person.
in the 1980’s, i met a dear 90 year old woman who wanted me to do some illustrations for her book. we became great friends.
i will never forget the day she said, ‘if i could live my life over again, the one thing i would do differently is to visit the elderly more often.’… those words had a huge impact on my life, and i will forever hold her wish in my heart.
when i am in town i will listen to this when the internet is faster.
Many thanks, Lisa – and for sharing your story. I keep telling Peggy she is my role model for how to grow older with grace, acceptance and humour. But, being Peggy, she just brushes me off: “Away with you!!”. I hope and trust that she knows I mean it. I feel fortunate to have such an inspiring older woman in my life.
I so enjoyed the post, and the interview. What crosses my mind is that my best friends are getting up there — one is 80, the other 75. The time is here for me to make some new, younger friends, too. Even “friends in community”, such as those met through interest groups and activities are important. It’s funny to be the “baby” of my group of friends, and yet know that I’m seen as “old” by many with whom I interact.
It is true that our elders used to be honored for their wisdom and life experience. It saddens me to see real youngsters ridicule people in their 70s and 80s because they aren’t up on the latest technology, and so on. Wisdom is wisdom, whether it’s communicated by conversation, hand-written letter, or mp3. What a good reminder this is!
Many thanks for your thoughts on this important topic, Linda. I feel very strongly about the issue of older people in our communities not being valued given what richness of experience they have to offer the rest of us. When this richness is distilled into wisdom, we have people like my friend Peggy, who is a real gift to us younger folk! Let’s do our own small bit in bringing the generations together, shall we?
One of the young folk I most value is my own nephew, who is 21, a good-hearted, astute, and very bright young man who is a great window for me into what the younger generation thinks and feels. I feel most grateful to have him in my life too…
Thank you Anne.
REAL friendships are very rare. I have a dear eldery American friend of 96. She lives in Racine/Wisconsin. I met her on a flight from Chicago/U.S., toward Stockholm/Sweden. It felt as destiny because she became seated beside me instead of the original seat she had booked(her one son and a daughter in law were on the same flight). They were on a pilgrimage tour to visit Rome/Italy, and to see the canonization of a famous deceased Catholic priest(cannot recal the name of the priest). Well, you would have to search far and long to find such an intelligent and smart(widely knowledgeable and tolerant in her own catholic faith)human being !
The journey together made us friends – for 20 years now.The internet has made it possible to stay in touch ever since. I have never met anyone like her…..she is unique, and a formidable “history-book.” She is highly active in helping others and everywhere about in the neighbourhood.
Your friend Peggy seems to be of the same sort ! There are some fantastic human beings about us that`s for sure.
Heartily, Inger Lise.
Thanks for sharing this heartwarming story of cross- generational friendship with us, Inger Lise!
I loved reading this post Anne. It reminded me of a very short but intense “friendship” of sorts I had with an elderly lady who had survived Auschwitz. I was very honoured that she felt she could tell me the story of her life and terrible experiences there. I was working as part of a Social Work project at the time but we felt a close connection to each other and she would only speak to me in regard to her case. I have never forgotten her or her bravery.
Thanks for this moving feedback, Carole. Trust is a gift which one person bestows upon another – we can never expect it, or demand it. We can only earn it. But there are times, as you have described here, where there is an immediate meeting of souls, as it were, and the trust just flows. I think that is grace in action. It’s something I too have experienced at times – and feel very honoured and humbled to have done so.
12.11.14: from Sheilagh, by email:
Really enjoyed this as I’ve only now got round to reading it. I am very happy with intergenerational communication and find it comes easily to me. Probably with having been a teacher I relate to younger people, and having entertained mum and dad and their friends for most of my life I am well used to spending time with older folks too. I do have to admit that my husband would suggest I am good at communicating with a wall as I was born to talk!!!
Peggy sounds a real character and I like her positive attitude which is marvellous for a woman of her age. Even looking at her picture she is wearing strong positive colours and nicely accessorised so not surprised.
Thanks for sharing, another brilliant inspirational piece of work !! S x
Many thanks for this, Sheilagh. You have been a wonderful example to me and I am sure to many others through your dedication and commitment to your Mum and Dad, as well as husband, children and expanding tribe of grandchildren. However, you have at least one thing in common with Peggy: modesty to an extreme degree…and I can just now hear you using Peggy’s line: “Well, I don’t know about that!” or, alternately, “Away with you!”