At the end of the phone call, the man in his late seventies gave me some advice.
You know, he said, if you get to be my age and all you’re doing is going to funerals, you’ve done it wrong.
Oh, now that’s interesting, I thought. The call had begun on work affairs, then opened up into world affairs, family affairs, and now, life affairs. I sat at my kitchen table and listened.
All you did was hang out with people your own age, the man said. But don’t think wisdom’s just for the old. Every age has wisdom. And you missed it because you kept to a tight little circle of your generation.
This man was tossing a bomb into traditional ideas of friendship. Which had me wondering: If we each drew a graph of the years our friends were born, would it spike pretty high around the year we were born?
If so, here were the man’s marching orders.
Seek out the silver-haired, the newbies, and all in between, he said. No clue what it’s like to be 23 years older than you or 11 years younger than you right now? Go out. Meet people. Get yourself a clue. Hear how they make sense, or don’t, of life.
After the call, I would ask a younger friend to coffee, arrange dinner with an older acquaintance.
But before I got off the phone, I thanked him for the marching orders.
Which really, I think, came down to this: Be curious. Be open with your life. And live it, as Rilke would say, in widening circles.