It has been nearly 60 years since my closest friend Jerry Poss and I palled around as freshman at Rutgers College in New Jersey. I was a newbie from upstate New York. Jerry was a Teaneck boy, following in the footsteps of his older brother who was graduating and about to become every mother’s dream: a doctor. Jerry was a tall, handsome, athlete who didn’t have a care in the world except sports and girls. I was afraid of flunking out after we were instructed at orientation to “look to your left and look to your right–one of you will not be here after a semester.” If anything would scare this pimpled kid from Rochester it was that pronouncement. I started out pre-med with pie-in-the-sky expectations that my high science scores on the aptitude test would support my grandiose career plans. I quickly learned that a full load of liberal arts courses plus the sciences were too much for me–especially when I turned to my left and right and heard the New Jersey pre-med boys’ quick responses to the professors’ questions. I dropped pre-med and picked up geology and American studies per Jerry’s advice and counseling. We both knew it was to be law school for me eventually-the other choice was podiatry, and I wasn’t going to do toenails for the rest of my life. So once my classes were straightened out and I was free of the torturous studying, Jerry and I tackled our second semester dilemma: which fraternity to join. Jerry was a legacy at ZBA on campus through his brother, so it was an easy choice for him, and I just followed along. We both pledged and the rest is history. Now, 60 years later, we are both widowed. Jerry lost his Stef, his coed love from Douglas, and I lost my Judie, my high school sweetheart from back upstate. Together we are bachelors again, embarking on this new phase of our lives. I have been fortunate enough to find a wonderful companion in Patti. Jerry is just starting out, and since I am four years ahead of him in widowerhood unfortunately, this time it is my task to guide him.
First lesson: don’t read the grief books. They will only take you down someone else’s path of loneliness. Second, find some activities that you always wanted to do but couldn’t for one reason or another. I started writing this column and took watercolor painting classes. And finally, be open and honest with yourself. Don’t shy away from the notion of finding another partner in life. I know the saying “time heals all wounds.” I disagree – only companionship will heal the loneliness. More importantly, at 80 years of age, how much fun time do we have left? Travel, take classes, plan outings with friends. It’s great to have the children to visit and take trips with but as bachelors at 80 we still need companionship of the female kind. So Jer, we are off. You need to learn to fish, and I need to dust off my old golf clubs to tag along with you. We may even try to play tennis again. There is still life left in these old bones.