• Keeping Friends

Intergenerational friendships: The special joys of friendships at different ages and stages

Published: July 6, 2007 | Last Updated: February 26, 2015 By | 2 Replies Continue Reading

My very special intergenerational friendship

I met Dr. Rita Dunn when I was just eleven years old. She was a kindergarten teacher and I was her class monitor. I stood at the end of the line as she took her little ones to the playground, and I helped pick up their blocks and clean the messy jars of finger paint after play period. I loved the time I spent with her. She was beautifully attired, stunningly attractive, and had a knack for making an awkward preteen feel special.

Also the school drama coach, Dr. Dunn coaxed me to try out for the role of Ado Annie in Oklahoma—and ultimately gave me the part. I never could imagine another circumstance under which such a shy young girl would ever find the self-confidence to appear center stage and belt out, “I Can’t Say No.” She told me I could do it and I did. In the audience, my startled parents beamed with pride. From time to time, I still hum the lyrics in the shower and look back at the cast photos in my closet…

Over the years—through junior high, high school and college—my favorite teacher sent me lovely handwritten notes and gifts, and I kept her up-to-date about the changes in my life. She invited me to her home and introduced me to her family. When she became a college teacher at St. John’s University, I took a graduate education course with her. When I wrote my dissertation, she was by then a full professor and graciously served as one of the advisors on my doctoral committee.

Even during the decade when we lived in different states, me in Maryland and she in New York, we found ways to talk and get together. When I was poised to re-marry after my divorce, I asked my mentor how I would know when and if I found Mr. Right. “When you find him, you won’t need to ask,” she counseled wisely with her voice of experience. It was wonderful to have someone to turn to who was so possessed of wisdom and cared about my success.

Without even realizing when the change occurred, “Dr. Dunn” became my dear friend, “Rita” and the age gap between us disappeared. Now that I live in New York again, not more than 10 miles from her home, we go to the theatre together (we even saw a revival of Oklahoma on Broadway), celebrate birthday lunches whenever we can, and share dinners with our spouses. I realize how special this friendship is…without her, I would not be the person I have become. And I know she takes great pride in that.

You may have caught the Today Show segment on intergenerational friendships. “Among good friends, age disappears,” commented Meredith Vieira. This certainly has been my experience.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This friendship blog is serving as a reminder to me that in a busy life I must make time for friends. Perhaps others find as I do that friends can easily go to the bottom of my “to do” list . linda

  2. Anonymous says:

    What delightful information here. And best of all it brings my own friends to mind. Thanks for blogging on this topic.


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