#21 Intergenerational friendships

I met Gloria in September, 2008.

I was camping out at an Arizona hotel for work and she was the hotel bartender. A sassy fiftysomething with frizzy white hair, classy black clothes, and bright red lipstick, Gloria was the soul of the place who had been there for years. Twice married, twice divorced, two cancers, and three jobs — she’d seen it all and been it all, with a smile and a story to prove it.

On my second night there I noticed Gloria chatting with everyone like old friends. She knew everyone by name and served up wisecracks and wisdom with every glass of wine. I listened as she talked stocks with bankers, sports with sales guys, and listened with little bits of life advice for folks like me. “I book all our meetings here because of Gloria,” folks on barstools would tell me. “Most of us stay here because of her.”

Since my trip was a few months long and I was brewing with a broken heart, Gloria became a trusted listener, confidant, and friend. Before I got shipped home a group of us took her for a big Mexican meal and had a fun night laughing and telling stories over spicy shrimp tacos.

When I got home I told my friend Joey about Gloria and he smiled and told me about a lady in his apartment building he’d become friends with, too. “Basically, I kept leaving my clothes in the communal dryer in the basement for days, and I’d come back to find everything folded in a basket,” he said, laughing. “There would even be a Zip-loc baggie with my underwear in them and a handwritten note pinned to the front saying ‘Hope you don’t mind I moved your clothes! – Hazel’ Anyway, we grab a coffee every so often now.”

Hazel and Gloria are great examples why intergenerational friendships are such rare and wonderful things. I mean, from The Age of Babies, most of us hang out with people our own age. So when we bust through to connect with someone older or younger… well, it’s like a super-sticky bond that shows us completely different views of the world. Suddenly our perspectives gets twisted, our worries seem small, and our intergenerational friendships send us flying far away from it all.


Photos from: here, here, and here