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my friend charlie

Welcome to my blog!

(Ok, wow. Literally just four words in and I'm already experiencing that feeling of silliness and embarrassment you get when you're writing something as if someone somewhere will at some point read it and your inner saboteur is laughing at you mockingly saying "Why are you writing this as if someone somewhere will at some point read it?" But, I digress. Onward!)

So, dear reader or empty vastness of the ether — first things first: why "My Friend Charlie" for the blog title?

I knew I wanted to write about my relationships with people who are older than me, highlighting all the lessons and insights I've gleaned and emphasizing the importance of intergenerational friendship. When I think about those things — older people, lessons learned, relationships across generations — one person really encapsulates it perfectly: Dr. Charles ("Charlie") Johnson. I call him Dr. J.

When Dr. J and I met, he was 96 and I was 29. Despite the almost seven decades (!!!) between us, he became my best friend. Seriously, I'm not just saying that; he really was. We visited for almost an hour every single weekday for over 2 years, and during that time he was without a doubt the person I was closest to in this world (besides my husband).

As I write that, I think "Is that weird? Should I be admitting this?" And therein lies the crux of this: intergenerational friendship – much less best friendship! – is unfortunately so rare and unique in our culture, our default reaction is to assign it weirdness. What's weird, really, is that it IS so rare.

If you think of a "best friend" as someone you share common interests with, that was me and Dr. J. If you think of a "best friend" as someone you tell all your stories too — from past and present, good and bad – that was me and Dr. J. If you think of a "best friend" as someone you laugh with, cry with, dream with, compete with, eat brunch with, have coffee with, text with, share book recommendations with… that was me and Dr. J.

Call it weird if you want. But it was wonderful.

I decided to see what the internet has to say about BFFs. Urban Dictionary (knower of all things) says: "You can be your complete and total self around this person without feeling uncomfortable. A best friend is someone who literally feels sent from heaven. Someone who will do almost anything for you as you would do for them, and someone who loves you no matter what kind of stupid things you do." (*This is slightly edited, it is Urban Dictionary after all.)

Well, that describes Dr. J precisely. So again, if calling someone old enough to be your great-grandfather your best friend is weird… I'm ok with that.

I asked some people around me: how do you define "best friend"? I heard: easy to be around, loyal, good-listener, funny, supportive, covered in fur (this one from a serious dog-lover… I hope so anyway.)

Dr. J was my best friend, and I miss him so very much. Although no relationship will ever rival or replace ours, I hope this blog will serve as a reminder to me – and to you, imaginary-someone-out-there-maybe-reading-this – that sometimes the most enriching, life changing, course-altering friendships are found where we least expect them. For me, that was on a bench outside the front door of a retirement community on a sunny fall day. I remember it perfectly. (How could I forget the quietly charming older white man wearing the cheetah print "Black Lives Matter" mask?!)


So, Dr. J – I dedicate this project to you. There's so much more I could say about you and how your friendship changed my life. (And I have said a lot of it, in the many, many personal journal entries I've woken up in the middle of the night to type about you on my phone. Maybe I'll share some of those here later.) But if you're reading this – either having wound up in a heaven you didn't believe in, or reincarnated somewhere as something with internet access – know that I love you. Thanks for being my best friend.

1 Comment

Oct 17, 2023

What a magnificent tribute to Dr. J, to inter-generational friendships, and to you, Caroline. You bring caring friendship and Joy to

so many folks across multiple generations. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this blog. Certainly Dr. J inspired me as well. He was Chairman Emeritus of our Raucous Caucus, which convened and solved national and world problems many a Saturday at Fosters Market. Cheers, Jim Adams

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