Living by myself as I have for about 15 years, since my youngest daughter started college, has been a new chapter, like coming home after a lot of activities. It’s been very nice.

Adapting to change is pretty close to the top of the list of prerequisites for a healthy life, and this lifestyle has been a welcome one for me. This year, of course, has been for all of us a year of adapting, and while I’ve surely missed the family gatherings, I’m thankful I enjoy my company because that’s mostly all I’ve had (with one major exception, which I’ll talk about in a minute). I was a regular at a couple of restaurants and had dinner out four to five evenings a week. It was a social activity as well as sustenance. That has stopped for a year now. Life is much simpler. And life is still good.

I’ve found more time to think, to write, to read, for new hobbies, to develop new skills, and the self-isolation lifestyle has had as many advantages as inconveniences.

There’s also more time to appreciate all I have. This next statement is a recurrent one from me so if you’re a regular reader (thank you) you may skip it; “If you’re reading this you’ve lived your life in the easiest, most plentiful conditions ever known to the human species.” An additional appreciation that this unique year has allowed me to focus on is friends. A few careful, masking, distancing, respectful of this pandemic friends. Those considerations have changed some friends to phone calls and texting only, but that’s a small price to pay for health and safety. For mine and for those around me. 

All of this has brought to mind how often we say and hear when describing a relationship: “ He or she is just a friend.” That’s meant to clarify it’s not a romantic relationship. Well, after reading further you are hereby committed to never using just and friend in the same sentence. In this usage just means only. And that should never be used to qualify a friendship relationship. Friends are much higher in their ranking. They are always there for us, and us for them, as other relationships may burn brightly but often fade over time. 

So, this column is about a very special friend of mine. He’s in my bubble and we do a lot together. In his eighties now, he’s still healthy, fit and has plenty of energy and he’s great company. Most mornings, he joins me for an hour-long walk in the woods or on the beach, which is beneficial for both of us. He’s an easy-going kind of laid back guy who doesn’t like to discuss current events so he’s a good influence on my tendency to passionately involve myself in that. Mornings are usually comfortably quiet between us. Walking in nature is a great way to start the day, a consistent reminder of our place in the world, and while he doesn’t seem to need a regular dose of humility, I definitely do.

I’ve learned so much from him. He never worries about the future and doesn’t complain about the past either. In fact, if I ask him what time it is (I don’t own a watch or have any clocks in my home) his answer is always the same. “It’s now.” That’s it for him and I think that’s a healthy way to live. He is older so I’m also learning about aging from him. Somewhat. Like balance or riding a bicycle, I’ve found aging isn’t something that can be taught. It has to be experienced to actually get it. But as a role model he helps my mind.

While he doesn’t seem concerned about his aging at all, I am. The odds are he is going to finish his life before I do and I’m aware of how much I’m going to miss him. I’m not a reminiscer but lately I’ve noticed it creeping into my thoughts and he is the one causing it. It occurs to me that maybe we tend to get nostalgic when we don’t have enough to look forward to. 

So I’ve decided to act on it. The only question is when will I get the new puppy to fill the eventual void of losing my wonderful friend Jake? I’ll not compare them, of course, but will then love her as fully as I have him. As I close this, I looked for him and he’s lying peacefully by the fire. He’ll be a good role model for her too. I’m going to name her Love.