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.
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