Today is Darlene Costner's 95th birthday. Imagine – she was born in 1925 when Calvin Coolidge was the U.S. president and she has seen 16 presidents.
Darlene and I have never met in person, but we have been internet friends since at least 2007. For a long time she ran her own blog, Darlene's Hodgepodge, where she held forth on whatever crossed her mind – always smart, frequently funny and where she never pulled any punches about how she felt regarding politicians and their behavior.
Darlene stopped writing her Hodgepodge blog in 2012, but it is still online if you would like to check it out.
Among her interests are music – she has played piano since she was three years old - reading, photography and travel. Oh, how she loved travel and often wrote about how much she misses it.
Back in 2008, I published a series of guest posts here that I called the Oldest Old Project – stories from readers who were at least 80 years old. Darlene was too busy elsewhere to contribute but I republished a story from her blog about her final trip abroad and how life was different at age 83 from 60.
In part, she wrote,
”I no longer care if my house is spotless. It used to be a matter of pride that my furniture was polished, the floors clean, the windows washed and all was in order. While I was never a Mrs. Felix Unger I did try to retain my image. No more.
“I think that might be a matter of self preservation because I am aware that I am unable to do the hard work necessary. I shove it onto my list of things that I won’t worry about. Now I am more like Phyllis Diller who joked, 'I clean my house twice a year whether it needs it or not.'
“My mental closet is full of things that I will think about tomorrow. I have become a regular Scarlett O’Hara.”
When I first read that in 2008, my life hadn't caught up with Darlene yet. Nowadays I know exactly how wise she was being. You can read that full essay here.
It is 12 years later now and the truth for all of us that if you live long enough you are likely to need more help day to day. A few months ago, Darlene moved into an elder care home and is not as active online.
Her daughter, Gail, said in an email recently that Darlene's physical health is good “but everything that's going on is taking a toll on her emotional health – like all of us,” and that the TGB community means the world to her.
Darlene is a remarkable woman – and not just for her many years. I've learned so much from her over the years about life, about enduring, about adapting. Oh, yes, about adapting. And we have also laughed and laughed together across the ether of the internet.
This is a story she sent for the Tuesday Reader Story feature that is posted here on Tuesdays. This one, from 2018, is titled, “The Elusive Monster.” It begins:
”There's a specter living in my house and his main purpose is to drive me insane. He is an evil prankster bent on making my life miserable.
“I first noticed his presence when he made all of my kitchen cabinets higher so that I can no longer reach the top shelf and even reaching the middle shelf forces me to stand on my toes.
“Then he must have howled with laughter as he knocked things from my hands, forcing me to clean up the ensuing mess. That wasn't enough fun for him so he lowered all the floors in my house.”
You can finish reading it here.
So let us celebrate the indomitable Darlene Costner on her 95th birthday. She is my friend, my old age mentor and I cannot imagine my life all these years without her friendship, her wisdom and her sense of humor.