Maria Hogan finds solace in past friendships during retirement. It’s an unexpected detail she didn’t plan for ahead of time.

As with most people, my plans for retirement grew more serious the closer that date approached. I constantly thought about how much income I would receive and asked myself if it would be enough for the coming years. I questioned whether I would be able to care for myself if I became ill. 

I did have one item on my list that didn’t cause me concern and worry. On my first day of retirement, I planned to get up at the same time I did during the work week. I would wake up at 5 a.m., reach over and turn off my alarm, then settle back into my pillow and float off to sleep. That idea gave me much satisfaction. 

I did and it felt great to roll over and go back to sleep. 

About five years into my retirement, I began to experience something I had not planned for or realized would alter my life: I began losing dear, longtime friends. We know death comes to all of us, but it was so soon for so many. 

I got a call one morning and was told my and longtime best friend had died from a heart attack. I couldn’t believe it. She was younger than me. Thinking that I would never see or hear from her again was crushing. We had been friends for almost 30 years. I saw her every day for 10 years at my previous job. After she retired, we planned daytrips. We began a ritual. Every April we would go see bluebonnets near Chappel Hill, and in May we would spend a day on the beach in Galveston. In July, we got together for the Fourth. Some activities were thought up in the moment, others were spontaneous. The spontaneity in my life disappeared along with the laughter after my friend died. 

My core group of friends either died or moved to be near a family member. I was suddenly left with a very small group of friends. I often would ask myself why I had not realized my long-held friendships would begin to disappear. Why hadn’t I been concerned with finding new friends? I guess, as with many other things in life, you don’t know until you get there. 

It is hard finding new friends. My energy level is not what it used to be, and my patience is certainly not what it was. Whenever I am in a group of strangers, I am always looking for someone I think I could be good friends with. Pretty soon I realized that friends from my past aren’t coming around anymore, and the number of people attending gatherings has dwindled. 

Our lives are controlled a great deal by the business terms of supply and demand. Well, so too are our lives after retirement affected by the ebb and flow of companionship and the passing of friendships. Loneliness can be depressing for retirees. The demand for friendships is great, but in my age bracket that supply is also dwindling. 

“I offer this advice. Go to as many events offered for seniors as possible. Expose yourself to things you might never have done.” 

Also, while you still have friends you already know, let them know how much their friendship means to you. I am thankful I did so with my friend. It was one of those days we had spent the entire day watching movies. I felt the need to tell her what a wonderful friend she had been. 

Maria Hogan is the guest retiree columnist for this issue of Benefits Pulse. She worked the city’s Legal Department for 12 years before retiring in 2006.