BFFs Forever

Jan Rathke

Best Friends Forever has a special meaning to me and my eight “forever friends.” Our story begins in my hometown, Rockford, Ill., in 1944. The story continues to this day. Eighty years! Two of us met in first grade, the other seven in other grade schools, and we all came together in junior high.

Luckily, our personalities meshed. The friendships only grew stronger in high school. We had classes together, studied together, had potluck dinners, countless slumber parties, proms, birthday celebrations, and some of us stood as bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.

Following graduation, we went different directions. We all went to college, and nine careers began in many walks of life: nurse, psychologist, stewardess, graphic designer, fashion (two), realtor, physician recruiter, hospital coder, and teacher. As our lives moved along, we found our significant others and had our families (21 children between us). Every five years we met at our high school reunions. But that wasn’t often enough, so we added our own reunions in between those years. We traveled from California to Maine to meet in each other’s homes. Still, that was not often enough!

Can it ever be enough? So, at age 60, we took a celebration trip to Italy.

A second trip followed two years later to London and Paris. Currently, the way we stay connected is with a twice-a-month Zoom meeting. It’s a perfect way to see each other and to share our opinions and problems.

Along the way, we’ve experienced life’s serious setbacks: death, cancer, heart issues, caregiving, and assisted living. Sadly, we have lost one of our own. Now we are eight.

On a happier note, our annual Spring-in-AZ reunion will take place in April. That gives us one more chance to reminisce about our past and embrace the future. Still not enough? I guarantee there will be more reunions ahead. It’s been a wonderful best-friend ride. We BFFs will continue that ride together.