I’m writing this column on my birthday, and only halfway through the day I’ve lost count of how many phone calls, texts and Facebook posts and messages I’ve received with birthday wishes. It’s a great reminder each year of all the love in my life and all the wonderful people I’m lucky to know.
As clichéd as it sounds, friends truly are the spice of life, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have such a large group of people from all walks of life I call my friends.
As you’ll read in one of intern James Whitlow’s stories this week, three local women have had their entire lives since their teens years colored and enhanced by their friendship. The women, all aged 88, were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, active in philanthropy together and there for each other in good times and bad.
“It’s amazing we’ve never not talked to each other,” Betty Jacobs-Keyser told the JT. In 70-plus years of friendship, that’s incredible to have had no periods of losing touch. I hope the friends I’ve had since childhood, high school and college that I still talk to remain lifelong friends.
While I only have one living grandparent, I was lucky enough to see my other three grandparents live well into old age and witness how the love and friendship of family and friends greatly brightened their lives, even as some of them lost mobility.
I recall visiting my dear grandmother Ruth when she lived in Florida, and was delighted to hear her phone ringing throughout the day with people calling to check on her or just to chat, some of whom called daily. I quickly learned that all the younger women in her community looked out for her and helped her get around town.
Even in the last few months of her life — we just lost her in January — when she was living in Maryland and was in and out of the hospital, she was overwhelmed by visitors and calls from those near and far.
My grandmother Hannah, who lives at Springwell on North Rogers Avenue, has card games, people she eats her meals with and lots of neighbors who stop and say hello when she passes them in the hallways.
I hope when I get into my later years I’m as lucky as I am now and as fortunate as the subjects of James’ story — Ethel Goldfein, Corinne Vineberg and Jacobs-Keyser — who have had people there for them throughout their lives. Aging can be quite lonely and isolating without the presence of good friends, and it comforts me to know my grandparents and other older members of the Jewish community have had some people to lean on.
As Vineberg said, “We need each other.” Indeed we do.