Self

Sue And Me: The May-December Friendship That Changed My Life

Photo: Courtesy Of Author
Author and Sue sitting on a park bench together

An unshakeable bond between a 65-year-old and a 29-year-old all began in the park across the street with a couple of dogs. Despite being a sunny summer day, the park was eerily empty apart from the four of us, which was the norm at the height of the pandemic. Although I am an introvert, the circumstances made me reach out to strangers more than usual to seek connection, especially with fellow dog lovers.

“You have yourself a gorgeous brindle boxer!” a woman shouted a few meters away. I looked over and saw an older couple walking with a gigantic Doberman who looked more like a small pony than a dog. 

“Your big guy is quite handsome himself,” I responded as my husband and I walked closer to the pair. 

With her fiery red curls and purple glasses, she wore an outfit Ms. Frizzle from the Magic Schoolbus would be proud of. Coming closer, I caught a rebellious glint of mischief in her eyes that I recognized within myself. 

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Although there were decades between us, the four of us got on like a house on fire. 

I learned that their names were Paul and Susan. My husband and I had just moved to Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto, and she had grown up there. While Susan and I gabbed about dogs and the neighborhood, my husband and Paul were kindred spirits discussing cars and DIY building projects. 

The conversation went on for some time until Susan opened up about how she had been hit by a car at a nearby plaza, suffering some seriously significant injuries in her foot and ankle. Although we bid our goodbyes, she stayed in my mind for the rest of the day. 

My husband and I have always considered each other old souls and were often frustrated by our generation’s shallow, distracted, phone-glued millennials. Our conversation with these seniors was the most interesting social interaction with another couple we’d had in months. 

How could I continue this connection I found with someone decades older but had rarely felt with women my age?

In hopes that I wouldn’t seem creepy remembering where they lived (we had walked them back to their place after our strolling together), I left a handwritten note with my phone number along with some cannabis gummies, which I hoped would alleviate some of Susan’s pain from the accident. I had my fingers crossed that she wouldn’t be offended by the gift and liked to indulge occasionally.

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Only a few hours later, she called me, thanking me. It turned out we were both stoners since our teens, and our conversation led to a bevy of other things we had in common.  I learned that our younger years were quite similar. We both rebelled against authority, grew up a little too quickly, and maintained our opinionated sassiness well into adulthood. It’s been years since we met, and we’ve only gotten closer and closer over time.

 Courtesy Of Author

After that phone call, I had a gut feeling that my neighbor and I were meant to be in each other’s lives.

Today, we’re each other’s confidants. We have a two-person book club (somehow, we have nearly identical tastes in literature) and smoke weed together. We take the bus down to Sunday farmer’s markets. When I decided to quit smoking and become sober, she was an integral part of my support system and helped lift me out of my depression, always offering company and a sympathetic ear. And, of course, we continued the ritual of dog walks and chats that initially bonded us. 

I often joke with her that if we had grown up in the same generation, we would have found each other and developed the same wild and giggly friendship that we share today, getting into trouble and probably giddily sneaking out of class to smoke a joint or two. Maybe even tripping on some mushrooms and staring up at the night sky, dreaming about who we would one day become.

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When I met Sue, I finally understood the adage “age is just a number.”

She genuinely felt like a soulmate. She was younger than her years, and I was older than mine, and we met right in the middle, seeing each other eye to eye. 

As an elder, she gives me the wisdom and patient reminders I desperately need in this increasingly confused and chaotic world we all inhabit. As a younger member of her community, I offer a fresh perspective, cheer her on to try new things, and encourage her to embrace self-love in a way that older generations of women haven’t always been taught to.

   

   

We’re mirrors reflecting each other in a mind-bending time warp, somehow precisely the same but still infinitely different. Even as we age, that ember of energy at the core of our identity remains burning through all the years.

This intergenerational friendship has been one of my life's most restorative and life-affirming relationships. At a time that often feels like Us vs. Them where many of us are caught in an echo chamber, age-diverse interactions can help us all grow distinctly. Elders have always shown us the way, but can we teach them as well? I think it’s a two-way street and a journey that I can say has changed me forever.

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Naima Karp is a writer aiming to create empowering and confidence-building content for individuals of all ages who don't have a voice or are not ready to use their own. She covers health topics such as cannabis, and sleep for sites like SPY and Variety.