Circles of Support – Women Friends Across the Years

“Where are you all from?” was the standard question as the four of us struggled to put on our seat belts in each of the Uber driver’s cars.

Without exception, these men (and one woman) of all ages and nationalities, were impressed that we had been friends for 57 years and had been roommates at the University of Redlands.

In fact, Sue, Penny and I had all shared a room during our freshman year of college – the only three-in-a-room group. We have pondered what the Dean of Women saw in our applications and recommendations that made her decide that the three of us – out of all of the freshmen women, would be the ones most likely to manage having three in a room.

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Penny and Sue in our dorm room – 1959

It is amazing that we not only survived the year, but have remained fast friends all these years. While Carole had a different roommate during our freshman year, she quickly became part of the group and roomed with Penny off and on.

After graduation, we each went our own way pursuing graduate school or career, married and raised our families. In the days before email, it was difficult to stay in contact regularly. In 1995 we were in a place that we could get together and scheduled our first reunion. I still had two children in high school, so we gathered in Albuquerque and were able to spend a couple of days each in Taos and

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Carole, Penny, Sue, Me – Taos, NM – 1995

Santa Fe.

Since we had all grown up in Southern California and still had family that lived there, we were able to get together fairly regularly in California, usually gathering in Laguna Beach where Penny lived.

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Sue, Me, Penny, Carole aboard Penny’s brother’s boat – 2001

After our 40th college reunion, we spent a few days in Palm Desert where Penny’s brother has a condo. I had started birding the prior year and had my binoculars out all of the time – while everyone rolled their eyes. However, after we returned to Laguna Beach, Penny, Sue and I stopped at the Newport Back Bay on the way to the airport. When Sue saw a flock of American Avocets in breeding plumage, she was hooked. We have traveled together several times on birding trips, most recently to Cuba.

The four of us email almost daily. Our basic values about life are in sync which has enabled us to stay connected despite living in far-flung parts of the country, following different career paths and having varied interests. We have been there for each other through the ups and downs of life and through medical crises that we have each faced as we have aged.

It was wonderful to get together in Portland where Carole now lives in a Continuing Care Facility and near one of her sons.

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My birthday dinner in Portland 2016 – Penny, Sue, Carole and Me

After Portland, I traveled up to the Seattle area where I was able to connect with two other groups of women who have been long-term friends.

Kate, Sharron, Martha, Tisha and I were all executive directors of United Way affiliated non-profit agencies starting in the mid 1970’s. By the late 70’s, we were aware that there was a group of men executives that met regularly for breakfast to network. We, of course, couldn’t do that as we had families to tend to and get off to school before heading to work – and weren’t even invited. Being in the minority, we decided we needed each other and started meeting for lunch. After grappling with challenging board members and funding issues, we gradually became friends. After about a year, we started meeting for dinner at each other’s’ homes and our friendship deepened. We were there for each other through many personal challenges, as well as for work-related issues.

When I left Seattle and moved to Albuquerque and we met for our farewell dinner,

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Martha, Kate, Sharron, Tisha – 1994

I didn’t know whether we would remain close. However, strong friendships don’t go away and despite the distance, we have stayed connected and always get together whenever I visit.

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Sharron, Me, Kate, Martha, Tisha – 2000

Only Martha and Tisha were able to get together with me on my most recent visit.

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Me, Tisha, Martha – 2016

Sharron was out of state and Kate and her husband were on their sailboat before she starts another round of chemo. Tisha and Martha promised to let me know when they visited Kate during one of her infusion sessions and to connect with me via FaceTime.

Joanne and Margaret Lee are friends that developed from our time at The Arc-King County. Joanne was the president of the board when we both had young children. If she was able to guide the board expeditiously through the agenda at a monthly evening board meeting, she and I would stay in the office and visit until we knew that our husbands had gotten our children into bed. Later I was successful in recruiting her to come and work at The Arc. Along the way, I realized that Breanne was facing developmental challenges and was grateful for the support from other families. Joanne was also the one person I could talk with when I admitted to myself that my husband was an alcoholic. She accompanied me to my first Alanon meeting and she and her husband where there for the intervention.

Margaret Lee joined The Arc later to coordinate the Parent Coalition. She and Joanne and I became fast friends, along with Nancy, another parent advocate who has since passed away.

I have been back to Seattle every few years and the three of us always get together.

Arc friends 2004

Margaret Lee, Joanne, Me – 2004

Every year when I get her Christmas letter, Margaret Lee regularly scrawls a note letting me know that I am always welcome to stay with her and her husband Loren. I did that four years ago when I returned for her retirement party. It was such fun that I took her up on her offer when I visited again this year.

As usual, she and Joanne and I got together for lunch.

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Me, Joanne, Margaret Lee – 2016

After my groups of close women friends in Seattle, I knew I wanted to find a similar group of women in Albuquerque. The opportunity arose when a friend from work invited me to be part of a dream group. The composition of this group changed over the years when it was clear that someone in the group did not have similar values. When you are sharing your dreams, it is vital that each person be compatible. The two friends that were in the group from the beginning are Val and Tanya, and we have stayed close.

Dream Group 2003

Tanya, Val, Me – 2003

Sandy joined us in 2004.

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Sandy, Tanya, Val – Christmas high tea – 2009

While we no longer gather to share our dreams, we remain fast friends and gather during the holidays to catch up.

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Sandy, Tanya, Val, Me  – High tea at St. James’s Tearoom

Val and I try to get together every month or so to take a walk and visit. It has been Tanya who coordinated friends to provide transportation to physical therapy after my two knee replacements.

While I have many other wonderful friends in Albuquerque spanning my work, church and birding circles, I am grateful for long-term relationships and circles of support.

I feel lucky to have special friendships that have supported me, shared fun times, and endured over most of my adult life.

 

 

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