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dogsAutumn always makes me wistful for school days. Not for homework. Ugh. For the annual fresh start at friendship. How great would it be to get a clean slate-blackboard and 25 potential playmates every September?

My Catholic High School made it even easier (if you forget the part with the nuns). It was segregated by gender and organized alphabetically, giving us at least two things in common with everyone in homeroom: a uniform and an initial.

I used to long for the simpler times when 1 + 1 + a #2 pencil = BFFs. Making friends at 50 is harder than a math word problem. Why did the chicken cross the road and at what time did he arrive? (Solution below.)

Living in five different cities and losing friends to new men and, lately, to new grandchildren, forced me to find new cohorts throughout my post-adolescence.

The standard acquaintance acquiring advice– join a group, take a class, play a sport– works, if you have enough energy and open calendar slots. If you are like me, you don’t.

So when a collection of candidates vying for your companionship is no longer a yearly event, you have to learn to pay attention to the possibilities for connecting with people wherever you open your lunch box.

I don’t have the ABCs of friend-making for you but I can teach you to count to five:

How I Made 5 New Friends After 50

1. My neighbor Alice was spending 13 hours a day at her husband’s side; he was hospitalized with end-stage liver disease. Our relationship was limited then, to cordial waving and happy holiday-ing. In these situations, however, a good neighbor makes a casserole. If she doesn’t cook, the neighbor leaves a rotisserie chicken. Alice cried at the gesture. She clearly needed a friend so I started checking in with her when she got home nightly at 9:30. After her husband passed, Alice was single for the first time in 40 years. I spent a couple of nights a week tutoring her in how to have fun, for the next couple of years. We changed each other’s lives. She made more friends on her own. She used casseroles.

2. Lauren was a prodigal Philly daughter, recently returned from Manhattan. Her dog Lola became negatively obsessed with my Dempsey on their evening stroll down my street. Dempsey didn’t reciprocate Lola’s affections, fortunately, but her daily ridiculousness brought me to the door, concerned for everyone’s safety. Lola is a Chihuahua. Dempsey is a Boxer. Lauren and I laughed at the Mexican jumping bean’s chutzpah. I introduced myself. Lauren started stopping to chat when she and Lola walked by. I asked if she wanted to get together for a drink and now we go out together at least once a month.

3. It’s a bird, it’s a dog??? Sonia is @Mownia. That’s all I knew until Dempsey got Lymphoma. She saw my Tweet-pleas for prayers, recognized my dog and messaged me. She, like Lauren and Lola, walks by my house regularly while Dempsey is holding court on the stoop. We tweeted and re-tweeted and got together two weeks ago to see the Budweiser Clydesdales. She is probably more than 20 years younger than I am. How much fun is a friend like that?

4. A word to the wise. Get a female financial advisor. She might help save your social life as well as your money. Sue is my investment guru. She is very patient with my willful blindness to retirement reality. We insta-friended on our first meeting. Because she is also one of the nicest human beings ever, Sue keeps a mailing list of single gals over 40. It’s not a club. It’s a collection of Sue-approved women who get together when she sends an email. Friendships bloom among the list-ladies, too. So go find a woman to make and break bread with.

5. Linda is a teacher. We spent several happy hours after school, years ago, when I worked out of my house five days a week. Her parents suddenly needed caretaking just as I started full-time on-site at a client’s. I didn’t see her socially for years. Her friend, Nancy, on the other, became my friend Nancy. Linda introduced us and inside a happy half-hour, our friendship fate was sealed. When we are busy, Nancy and I make sure to see each other on Sunday mornings or before going to the office. Our weekends in Atlantic City, on the other hand, well, what happens in AC stays there, too.

One thing I must tell you about my five new friends is, they all live within a slow 20-minute walk of my house. Proximity breeds familiarity, and familiarity breeds friendship, contrary to popular belief.

In 8th grade, Sister Aurelia’s famous saying was, “it’s as easy as falling off a hearse. All you have to do is fall.” She was the math nun so it didn’t make a lot of sense then either, but making friends can be easy. All you have to do is cross the road.

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