A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about friends and our state’s motto “You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania.” During this time of staying at home, staying in contact with my friends is one of my favorite pastimes and has caused me to think more deeply about friendship.
When I was growing up in Kennett I had my siblings and my school mates. My parents had all kinds of friends. Dad had his DuPont Textile Fibers friends and Rotary Club,his Kennett Country Club golfing friends, and his poker buddies. Some Navy buddies from WWII would show up every once in a while. And we would go home to West Texas to visit the relatives and his childhood friends. Mom had her siblings, church friends, bridge club and the Seedlings Garden Club. One of her best friends was Clarissa Brown who helped her take care of the house and raise the 5 kids over 30 years.
However, Midge and Chuck Kelley were special. They were Irish Catholic Notre Dame intellectuals, not like anyone else in their kaleidoscope of friends. Midgetaught math at Tower Hill and Chuck worked in research at DuPont. We even called them Aunt Midge and Uncle Chuck.
When I asked about the friendship Mom said they used to play bridge together in the evenings, with me and their oldest daughter Judy, just babies, asleep in a box under the table.It saved on baby sitters. At my father’s funeral Uncle Chuck got up and told a story of what it was like when they were young couples going down to the shore, in a convertible, with the wind in their hair. There wasn’t a dry eye in the sanctuary.
Today my wife has collected friends from high school, college, the Kennett and her career here in Kennett. I get together with my DuPont friends, Navy buddies from Vietnam, my Kennett high school reunions and Penn State classmates, Kennett Rotary Club, the Kennett Education Foundation and church. We also have the Leachs.
This is our version of the Kelleys. We met Michael and Carol in a stint overseas 40 years ago and have never let go. Last week we went to a virtual Skype dinner celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. You make do in these times of the coronavirus.
Our children are looking to see who might be the Leachsin their life.During the coronavirus lockdown in Washington State,where our son lives, two families are allowed to lockdown together and care for each other. Stephen’s family has naturally fit in with their closest friends, and they are going through this ordeal together. Sharing the load is a great help.
For me the gold standard of friends is the Buckley Striders. In the late 70’s Ed Lynch and some serious runners mapped out runs around Buckley’s Tavern through the rolling hills of Chester County and Chateau Country to help people prepare for the Boston Marathon.
There was “the old course” a little over ten miles, or you could add high road low road for 14 miles and if you wanted to do serious hill work there was Twaddell Mill.
Today it is not quite as intense. On Saturday Mornings there are as many women as men running, some walk. Andwe spend almost as much time with a coffee and bagel at the local Pure Bread as we do running.There are also runners who leave from the Kennett Y on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The kids are getting into it too. I coach 6th grade running club with Melissa Keer during the After the Bell Kennett Middle School enrichment program.
When I ask myself why running friends are so good, I’m hit by the directives from the CDC during the coronavirus. We are to stay in our homes unless we are in a critical job, need to go out for food or medicine or if we are taking care of someone at risk.
Oh, the last one is “if you are exercising.” Why is exercising put on this list of life and death reasons? Because it is important to our overall health and wellbeing. And, we are doing a very bad job of it. In the next ten years with our current performance, half of all Americans will be clinically obese (BMI>30).
So, what I’ve found is these friends who helped meto run marathons and get through life at a BMI of around 25also help with getting each other through cancer, family traumas and craziness at the office. There are other ways to exercise, many of the Buckley crowd have gone on to bicycling or workout at the Y as knees and joints begin to weaken.
But the nice thing about running is it’s cheap, and you can pack your kit bag on a business trip to Turkey and run the streets of Ankara in the mornings just like Central Park in NY or LA. You probably won’t live any longer but you will die healthy.
Is there a better friend than someone who helps you battle the consumptive sedentary lifestyle of our culture? Exercise needs to be part of life and it can be a pathway to lifelong friendships. Where do you find your friends in life?