This Week in TGB Land
The Alex and Ronni Show and Some New Old Photos

A TGB READER STORY: Minding My Own Business

By Fritzy Dean

I was meeting a friend for lunch and I was early so I decided to stop for a cup of coffee. The McDonald’s was crowded but it was on my way and I did find a place to sit - a small booth near the front door.

I was reading on my Kindle, minding my own business when a voice said, “Want some company?” Before I could say, “Not really”, a tiny neatly dressed woman sat down across from me.

She started by telling me that this was her regular seat. I understand that feeling of ownership. We humans love to claim our territory, so I smiled. I may have asked her if she lived nearby but I don’t remember saying much after that. This lady was a prolific talker.

Here are some of the things I learned:

She was 90 years old. (I was surprised. at that.)

She intended to go back home and iron. She HAD to iron because she could only wear cotton, everything else made her skin break out.

She did not like the “new fangled” clothes with a hem dipping down on one side and “hiking up on the other. OOPs, she will have an opinion when I stand up.)

She had to buy her clothes at thrift shops because cotton things are hard to find, and she had to iron because cotton wrinkles real bad.

She knows she is almost the last ironer left.

But she has to look presentable because she is a volunteer. (I tried to murmur “Good for you”, but I don’t think she heard.)

She has met all THE BIG SHOTS because of her volunteering.

She mentioned a local business man who does TV commercials, and that woman who used to be our mayor, (we have had two women mayors, but I never learned which one she met), the business man again and “ALL them big shots.”

She volunteers at “a place over on Fulton,” and teaches crocheting - mostly Mexican ladies, but they can learn. They catch on real quick, because she is a good teacher.

Then she goes to a senior center and volunteers to teach crafts. And she’s member of The Eagles, but she doesn’t attend very often any more 'cause all they want is her money. They money her to death.

Just like the ambulance people. She had to call the ambulance to take her to the hospital; she felt she was dying, but the doctors said it was bronchitis. When she got the bill for the ambulance ride it was $1,000!

She told them she could not pay that; she is on fixed income. They said she could pay $30.00 a month and she said, “no, she couldn’t” and they can harass her all they want to but you can’t get blood from a turnip.

And besides, she has called the City of Houston many times to tell them they need to get rid of the standing water on Heights Boulevard, right where she gets off the bus and that water is still there.

She rides the bus anywhere she wants to go; it’s free, you know, because she is 90 years old. One of the perks of getting old.

I had finished my coffee and I got up to leave. As I did, she got up, too, and moved to the other side of the table. Seems like I was sitting in her place, all along.

I kept thinking about the woman and the experience all that day. I had a mixed bag of impressions. I was really aware that at 90 she is sharp, lives alone, takes care of herself, seems to keep herself active.

I also felt she is lonely (she captured a total stranger to talk to), she worries about money and she has no one to call when she needs help - except 911.

I see her as an example of the best and the worst aspects of aging in America in the 21st century. Parts of me are inspired by her and want to emulate her. Parts of me are profoundly grateful I don’t have to. Getting old sure ain’t for sissies.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]



Comments

How sad for her. I can sympathize with the ambulance ride costs, but in our state/county, you can pay an annual fee of $60 and then ambulance rides are free (at least one).

I do agree that getting old ain't for sissies. But it is better then the alternative, isn't it?

Weren't you generous to remain seated and open to listening to this woman who it seems wanted to connect with someone and be on the same wavelength (well, hers, anyway), if only briefly. There are those times when we learn by remaining quiet and somewhat insignificant.

I enjoyed reading this and learned a thing, perhaps more, as well. Your last paragraph says it all. Thanks for this.

I love Simone's take on your conversation, and feel the same way. While it wasn't your plan to have company while sipping that cup of coffee, in this day and age of technology and us/them mentality, we need ( more than ever) to connect with each other as human beings. Seems like a gift was given to both of you that day.

Simone and Judith say it well for me, too. Loved that you stayed to listen as long as you could.

Nope, it sure isn't.

Good for you for being a good listener! Humans, perhaps especially elder humans are often hungry to be seen, not merely glossed over, but deeply seen. I've been attempting to learn how to sort of drop my personality self when someone needs to be seen through their words. It can really change things. A woman I don't really know talked at incredible length when I inquired about her arm, which was in a cast. She'd had many surgeries, which had to be repeated either due to mishaps or just bones not knitting. This had gone on for four years, and now she was due to have the bandages taken off once more. She spoke in incredible detail, in a very factual way, even making diagrams for me. When I started feeling annoyed and impatient, I tried dropping the Salinda personality, who has better things to do, is on a schedule, isn't friends with this woman, etc. Immediately I saw and felt everything she wasn't telling me...........that she's frustrated, angry, scared, has probably shed many tears over this, and everyone in her listening circle is tired of hearing about it. It was surely a lesson for me.

Everyone's got a story, and now you know hers. I think your assessment is spot on....and I see this encounter as a win for both of you!

You aced it again, Fritzy. Keep those gems coming!

Agreed--old age is most assuredly NOT for sissies. The alternative may not be best at the moment, but there probably comes a point. . .

Wow, 1 of the best stories ever, Fritzy; I agree with Cordelia: keep 'em coming!

A good read and fortunate she is that she can get about. So many can't and after my stroke I learned just how hard it was in this large city. I'm thankful I can drive again but still not comfortable on distances. Can't ask a friend to take me to the cemetery. So son hasn't fresh artificial flowers.

I can only agree with all of the tender comments made earlier, Fritzy. Thank you for this engaging story and all the thoughts and memories it generated for this reader. In my view, that is writing at its best.

It reminded me of a comment I truly liked from a lecture I heard some years back,

"The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention". Richard Moss, MD

A lonely lady surely enjoyed and relished greatly your 'gift', Fritzy. The quality of her day was made better because of you.


Chance encounters have given me some great conversation, with old folks and young. Never know who you'll meet just waiting for the bus.

Oh Fritzy...you have a great story told from that 90 year old woman. I sit and listed to many from the elders who live in my apartment complex, and they each have a life of gold!

Hilarious story!

Fritzy, you are a sweetheart to have listened patiently to her stories.

That woman is handling her life her way.

Respect.

I am reading it again, ten ten!!

Thank you, all! I am humbled by the lovely comments from TGB readers. I hope each of us finds a willing listener when we need company.

Thanks for the smile Fritzy. I was almost there listening to her talk to you. You captured the essence of old bones still keeping active albeit lonesome.

Great story! This kind of thing happens to me a fair amount, and I always try to be a good listener. When I am, I always learn something.

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