Sat on their park bench
When I think of that Paul Simon song written in 1968, the year I graduated college, I didn’t think he was talking about ME! I wasn’t old then and never thought I would be. Now, I’m proud to say I have made it to the senior citizen category along with a whole bunch of folks I have known from many walks of life.
Take these two characters, who are part of my Costa Rica Writers’ Group which I joined in 2012. I consider them old friends even though we haven’t known each other for very long. Our relationship revolves around being members of the writing community with Bob being an editor, and Michael an author, as well as expats. Expats from the US stick together, at least they do in Costa Rica, a country about the size of West Virginia. You make fast friends when you’re in foreign places—like people who were in the Peace Corps way back when, or flew for TIA in the seventies, like me and my fly-sisters.
Never did I think I would be sitting on a fancy rooftop deck sipping Chardonnay at the elegant Gran Hotel in San José, Costa Rica, with a view of the famous National Theater, an historical icon in the heart of the city. They have recently remodeled the hotel, now run by Hilton, but I was assured by Michael, who wrote a book titled The Real Costa Rica, that they preserved the JKF suite as accurately as possible. That’s important to me because two of my expat sister-friends, Lynn and Isa and I stayed there with our spouses while we lived in Atenas. They still have theirs—husbands, that is. I do not, I’m happy to report.
I’ve been gone from Costa Rica for five years now or—is it six? You lose track of time when you enter a certain category called retirement. I hadn’t seen either of my two “old” friends since then. We picked up right where we left off and had a jolly old time catching up. Bob is still editing like crazy and Michael just published a novel called Tribune Man which takes place in Oakland, California. He’s sending a copy to Tom Hanks who was born and raised there. Hey! you never know!
We finished our cocktail hour, said farewell to Michael, and Bob hailed a waiting Taxi. He took us to his luxury condo just outside the city where he was kind enough to house me for a few days. I was so excited to sit on his balcony waving to the folks as they walked by on the covered walkway which is protected by four armed guards who patrol the complex. After sipping more Chardonnay, my waving to the passersby got more enthusiastic. Bob smiled and through clenched teeth said, “Enough with the waving already. You just waved to the same guard three times. You’re either gonna get shot or get me thrown outta here!”
I think it’s a post-COVID thing. Turns out, we’re not quite done after all. I have to get a COVID test before I’m allowed back into the US even though I’ve been fully vaccinated. With the rampant spread due to the variant and other factors, I may have to hunker down again when I get back to Capitola. That is, if I do get back. I’ve been hearing horror stories of flight cancellations, and tighter restrictions. I’m scheduled to fly at the end of August. If I’m forced to stay, I’ll have to do something drastic by the end of September since there’s a wedding in early October I don’t want to miss.
Meanwhile, Paul Simon will be turning eighty in October and I bet he’s also astounded since he wrote in that same song: “How terribly strange to be seventy.”
I have a dear friend who recently had a birthday party for her 75th. As she raised her glass to thank us for honoring her, she said, “Thank you all for coming to my seventy-fourth birthday party!”
I raised my eyebrows and started to correct her and then thought better of it. We can celebrate her seventy-fifth on her seventy-sixth and just keep smiling. When you get to be old friends, it just doesn’t matter.
When I get home I’m going to sit on a bench in Capitola and eat a tuna sandwich with an old friend.