Cultivating friendships and community is a key ingredient to a healthy lifestyle. I am honored and humbled by my friend Peter Cowal’s essay. It recently won 2nd prize in a contest sponsored by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education for all Portland Public School 5th grade students. Peter is a 4th grade student and I am 3½ years shy of my 60th birthday so we were allowed to be included in the spirit if not the letter of the law.

Card Outside

Brad Mersereau, my good friend

“Nice jazz, Peter,” my good friend Brad Mersereau remarked. He was playing a blues pattern on his grand piano, and I was playing around on his synthesizer set on “Trumpet.” I was at his house celebrating his birthday. My mom had baked brownies for him and Janet, his wife, and my sister decorated them. It was a great evening.

He and I met at St. Stephen’s church. Then, after awhile, we got to know each other really well. Once, he came to my house and taught me chess moves. It really improved my playing!

Brad really cares about my school and community. “ Drive Thru Wake Up,” a drugstore across the street from Atkinson Elementary, my school, was closed down for selling illegal drugs. Our community was trying to buy it, and Brad pitched in over twenty thousand dollars! At “Run for the Arts,” a fund-raiser for Portland Public Schools, he sponsored me ten dollars for every lap!

He really loves my sister and me. Brad comes to all my soccer games and violin recitals. Once, for my birthday, he gave me a chess timer! He and I both really like chess.

Brad and I have a major thing in common: music. He has written many songs. In fact, he is a full-time jazz musician. Brad has made a bossa nova tune about Frigid, one of my stuffed penguins. He has made at least two CDs, and one of my compositions is on one! It started on one of my birthday cards to Brad; I made some letters look like notes, and I put them on a staff. It ended up as a song called “La Petite Enfant.” It is about the birth of Jesus Christ. He and I have a great relationship through music.

I am very lucky to have an older friend like Brad. I hope that everybody my age has a friend like him, and I hope you, in your youth, had a strong connection with an elder person.

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