November 7, 2013

ABBOTT: There's no friends like old friends


---- — Most of us met as teenagers through our college yearbook. Nearly four decades later we are still friends.

We have arthritis and mortgages and adult children and growing grandchildren. Three times this year, most of us gathered for funerals – saying goodbye to two sisters and a father. In the three years before 2012, we said goodbye to two fathers and a mother.

This weekend we met in French Lick just for fun.

From Evansville and Fishers and Corydon as well as Belleville, Ill., we met in the yellow and red hills of Orange County.

Three of us showed up in red flannel shirts, generating an immediate rendition of Monty Python’s “I’m a Lumberjack and I’m OK.”

None of our kids or nieces or nephews understands our jokes anymore. Did time freeze in the early 1980s?

I am starting to understand why I’m often frustrated with my dad.

He never knows songs recorded after 1955, as if Pat Boone were the last Hit Parade. He just doesn’t know rock and roll, except for the occasional song that became a standard like “Bridge over Troubled Water.”

But I get it now, for my cultural references are all stuck in a place 30 years ago. I’m pretty sure that Jay-Z is a grocery store chain, and I have no clue about Adele’s most recent songs. Nor, could I pick Adele out of a police line-up if required at gunpoint.

Part of what is so great about gathering with old friends is that we get each other; we came from the same place and we understand.

No one argues about the music. We all know “Hotel California” was the best album ever. Our kids only know albums as the square items in an old crates marked “Peaches Records” in the basement.

Steve Martin was our guru, and perhaps Mel Brooks was our king. Over the weekend we watched “Young Frankenstein” for the 900th time, calling out all the jokes before they happened.

You take the blonde, and I’ll take the one in the turban.

Life however has intervened. We’ve earned our gray hair, even if some of us add a color now and then. We’ve shared triumphs and we’ve cried over unexpected losses. We’ve shared the loss of our parents, expected and unexpected. We’ve watched our children grow up and find their way in a world much more complicated than the one we faced in the late 1970s.

We probably won’t meet again soon. There are still aging parents who need us, children and grandchildren whose activities beckon, and retirement is a decade away. We will all go back to work.

The weekend was a dose of joy.

There is also no better medicine, despite a familiar complaint of arthritis, as two days of laughter.

Amy McVay Abbott is a freelance journalist and author of “The Luxury of Daydreams.” She can be reached at