Sage: Stay in touch with friends

after you move to another state

Dear Sage:

 

My husband and I will soon retire from New Hampshire to Florida, leaving behind friends, a leaky old historic colonial home, the comforts of old habits, gorgeous fall foliage, lots of warm memories, and a family of elusive mice in the garage. It’s mainly the friends that I’m concerned about – my bridge and mahjong groups, fellow church choir members and two women I’ve known since grade school. I feel a sense of security with some of these people, but I promised my husband – who has severe arthritis and joints that can predict the weather much better than the $300,000-per-year meteorologists – that we would head south. What can I do to make sure that my friends and I don’t drift apart?

 

                                                                            – Esther from Manchester

 

Dear Esther:

 

   The Sage identifies with you. He, too, misses his old house, the splendid New England foliage, warm memories and friends. He does not, however, miss his Connecticut mice, having transported a few from his old garage (in humane traps) and discharged them, with full clemency, on the other side of a river miles away, having provided them greater opportunities in a much more upscale neighborhood. But as for friendlier creatures…

    The Sage would posit that there are five levels of friends – most of whom you risk drifting apart from when you move. We shall discuss ways of staying in touch with them below, but first let’s define those levels:

   •Acquaintances. These are people you have occasional contact with, often for a singular purpose. This may include fellow volunteers or those you regularly meet at community functions or on your morning walks. You can comfortably discuss the weather or your mutual interest in these activities, but you don’t socialize. And after you leave, some of them may forget about you before the next episode of Hell’s Kitchen.

   • Friends of convenience. These are people you have worked with or socialized with, perhaps out of a sense of obligation. Fellow parents at your children’s school likely would fit in this category, as would some of your neighbors. You may share feelings about current circumstances – the boss who’s dumber than a doorknob, the teacher who doesn’t ‘get’ your kid, the raccoons that overturned your trash barrels. You get together and share observations of mutual interest. You may stay in touch occasionally over time, but they’ll likely skip your funeral if HBO Max is broadcasting a Porky Pig marathon. When you move you may discover that they liked you as much as a rattlesnake, and they may add your phone number to their list of blocked callers, along with Veg-o-Matic salespeople.

   • Casual social friends. You see them often because you share a passion (boating, golf, travel, bridge, church choir, political groups) and because you feel a certain comfort level through meaningful shared experiences. If you’ve known them for years, you may want to stay in touch through email and texts – sending them stories about your favorite mutual topics, like reviews of new boats, a photo or two (no more, please!) from your most recent trip, or your views about the recent Woody Woodpecker for President convention that you attended in Vegas.

   • Close, reliable friends. These are people you can count on for advice, mutual respect and shared values. You can talk to them about lots of things – raising children or dealing with family problems, such as depression or child-rearing. They may be from the workplace, or friends from childhood, or fellow members of a fellowship or service club. You can bounce things off them and expect honest, invaluable advice. You will miss them when you leave and will need to work at maintaining contact. They are good enough friends to contact you as often as you contact them.

   • Intimate friends. In the relationship world, these are akin to winning the Powerball Lottery. These are kindred spirits who offer an unbreakable spiritual connection that will endure forever, even after you have moved and met new people. You two share secrets and your innermost thoughts. You love this person like no other, and your relationship is based on truth, honesty and camaraderie, through joys and tragedies alike. You are as concerned for the other person’s wellbeing as you are for your own. You do not gossip about this friend. If you have one or two of these in a lifetime, you are blessed, indeed.

   Odds are, you will be in touch with this alter ego a few seconds after you begin the drive to Florida, sharing your emotions and your tears and planning a vacation within a few months.

   As for less intimate friends, you will have to take the initiative to maintain the attachment and rapport – and the other person will have to make a similar commitment. Here are some ways to do that:

   • Stay in touch on a schedule. Keep up with weekly happenings – your news and theirs. Perhaps you’ll talk on the phone. You’ll drift away if you stop, or if your contact becomes irregular; before you know it, it’s been seven weeks. You missed the latest news – a grandchild’s graduation, a family illness, or your own good fortune in joining a tennis club, a bridge league or the Loyal Order of Florida Cracker Conch Chowder Hounds. Do not take this person for granted.

   • Know what’s important to your friend – what she needs from you. Perhaps she’d be offended if you missed her birthday, or if you forgot to ask how her husband’s surgery went, or which college her granddaughter got into. Remember these details. After all, part of friendship is satisfying needs. Write down notes on your calendar – if the granddaughter is supposed to decide on a college by next Wednesday, call your friend at the end of that day or the next morning. It will show concern on your part. As a good friend, what’s important to her should also be important to you. One-sided relationships will put you back in the category of the Veg-o-Matic salesperson. In addition, share your own experiences – your joys, your challenges and other intimate thoughts.

     • Plan a get-together. Meet halfway or go on a weeklong trip to Hawaii, or the Caribbean, or even to Possum Trot, Kentucky. Select a date and put down a deposit – don’t just dream; otherwise it may never happen. You can also take turns simply visiting each other.

   • Play games together over the Internet – Words with Friends, for example, or watch shows via internet streaming services. Search Google for ‘apps to watch videos with online friends.’ There are bunches of them.

  • Do live chat via Instant Messenger on Facebook, Facetime, Skype other media, or simply by email and text. Often. And at random times as surprises. Share thoughts about the daily news. Talk about the latest episodes of your favorite shows, new movies, recommend books or articles.

  • Get out of the technological world and back to snail mail. Send cards for birthdays, anniversaries and just ‘thinking-of-you’ greetings. Everyone loves to get stuff in the mail, so long as it doesn’t get caught in between 20 pieces of junk. Heartfelt letters may be treasured forever. Send along a joke, an article, or a funny cartoon from time to time.

   • Send care packages of goodies, and not just at Christmas. Make it a surprise. Try flowers, or food baskets. Remind this person how much you care.

   • Share old photos – your childhood, the times you spent together with your kids years ago, the night you won the Lampshade Award during that pub crawl. Well, OK, maybe not that one. But you can scan old photos or take pictures of them and email them to your friend. Reminisce and bring back memories of how you met, or about major events in your lifetimes.

   • Don’t use a friend just as a crutch – listen and motivate and offer advice.

   • Assure your friend – and encourage her to do the same – to understand that even though both of you may meet new people, your bond will endure no matter what. Avoid the tendency to get envious or jealous.

   To Esther from Manchester, you will have to decide which categories these friends fall into – and how likely you will be to summon enough energy to maintain any relationships. Perhaps you’ll miss a couple of them dearly – others, well, as much as a week of snow, sleet and freezing rain in New Hampshire. Regardless, here's to enjoying the unparalleled warmth of true, loving friendships.

   Humbly Yours,

   The Sage