The Golden Years

(Pat and Gerry)

Tonight I went to the retirement party for my friend Pat Banko. After 35 years as a violinist with the North Carolina Symphony, she is retiring. Her friends from the symphony threw her a party at her neighbor and colleague’s home. Gerry Nelson (also in the symphony) and Charlie, as it turns out, also hosted Pat’s 50th birthday party at the very same home. They’ve been neighbors for decades. Many of the same folks there tonight were there 17 years ago helping Pat celebrate that momentous occasion as well.

(Pat and her friend Sherrill Laffey)

I was Pat’s neighbor for about five years almost a decade ago. Despite me moving away from our alcove of coziness, she and I have remained friends and our friendship continues to deepen. But that’s how Pat is. She’s still friends with the folks she left behind in California nearly four decades ago. It is no surprise to meet tonight friends she made while I was still in junior high.

Pat and I both married our college sweethearts and were divorced by 30. I’ve held that commonality close to heart, because Pat is a woman I admire and from whom and with whom I choose to learn. Her friendship has helped me develop needed optimistic yet realistic expectations for myself. But she has never left me alone with my expectations. No matter what, no matter when, she’s there to help me put my expectations into practice and at times understand how they have failed me.

(Peggy and Kathy Lee)

I miss the nights with Pat and Kathy in our back yards with all our varmints. I cherish her as a friend, and we count on each other as forever friends. Clearly, I’m not the only one. I reunited with another of Pat’s friends, Alyssa. Alyssa is a recently retired school teacher who became friends with Pat back in the 1970s. The fun I know they had. Pat has always been able to have as much fun, if not more fun, than anyone I know.

Don’t every confuse her honesty and genuineness with lack of compassion, because her concern for the next person isn’t merely skin deep. She doesn’t wear her generosity as a badge, but keeps it close to heart where it always means the most.

How honored I am to be among the people who shared this celebration with her. How honored I am to have Pat as my forever friend.

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