By Leslie Farin
I know I can’t be the only one who thinks my girlfriends ROCK – but mine really do.
I just returned from a much needed girls trip with a fabulous group of women I met in 1999, a few years after moving to Texas. A mom I knew at my children’s preschool invited me to a monthly poker group she joined a few years earlier.
I use the words “poker group” loosely as our game is not a serious one, and we play for nickels. And since at least a player or two forgets their money each month, we “borrow” coins often from each other. The game rotates houses, with the hostess responsible for providing a simple dinner. Always happy to see each other, our get-togethers are full of noisy chatter, sometimes so much so we forget to play. This game is definitely not for the serious player, but no one seems to mind. We are all there for the company and conversation – which results in a big win for all of us at the end of the night.
When friends turn into family
The wonderful thing about this group is the support, friendship and love we share. These women are a big part of my Texas family. I may not see them between poker nights, but know they are there for me. As someone who finds it difficult to ask for help, and tends to retreat when life gets hard, I appreciate that somehow they are able to sense when I need them to reach out.
How grateful I am to call these women my friends. They are truly an impressive group. We have a CEO, a human resource VP, two non-profit professionals, a realtor, a college professor, a special education consultant, a legal assistant, an insurance executive and many with serious volunteer credentials. Our financial situations vary and no one cares. We offer each other unconditional acceptance.
We all started at the same place, as young moms with small children. We talked about babies, childcare options and preschools, which morphed into conversations about teenage angst, SAT’s and college. At this point we are all empty nesters, with some of our kids living locally, and others out of state. Five of our twenty-six children are married and one of us is a grandparent. Some of our husbands are starting to retire, which in some cases, as one of the ladies remarked, “is a whole lot of husband”.
We happily celebrated milestones and holidays these past 20 years, too many to count, but friendship is not just about the good times. During this time we also experienced three divorces, three battles with cancer, numerous extreme caregiving challenges with parents, and seven deaths. We rallied around each other, providing love and support as best we could. When we didn’t know what to say, we brought food, an easy way to show how much we cared.
Back to the monthly poker game; when some of us can’t remember the rules – when we actually play – no one gets annoyed. Instead we pass out printed instructions and laugh about it. It’s important to all of us that everyone feels accepted, valued and included and we find creative ways to make that happen. And now that I think about it, it’s probably time to redo the instructions in a larger font for this group.
A new appreciation for my female friends
As we shopped, ate, laughed and sipped our wine this weekend, I realized that now that I’m in my 50’s, I better understand just how much we need our female friends. The reason is two-fold: First, the shared history and memories create a strong bond, one that hopefully can withstand the messiness of life. Not all friendships can. Second, our age group faces hardships we couldn’t imagine when we were younger, and we may need more support moving forward than we did in the past. Staying connected in some way, whether through poker, walking, place of worship or mah jongg, helps us to remain physically, cognitively and emotionally healthy as we age.
Back home again, I unpack my memories as I look at the pictures from the weekend. Yes, I tell my husband, the trip was wonderful. Spending this time with dear friends provided a tremendous boost that will remain in my heart for a long time. Treasure your friendships, especially those from long ago. At this point in our lives, we have many more years ahead of us. Let’s help each other make this next phase as good, if not better, than the last.