My parents had a Christmas shindig at their house last weekend. The kind of party where there are literally ten platters of food on the dining room table and then they send all the leftovers with you so that your refrigerator won’t close.
Anyhow, I got to meet their neighbors and one of them was a wonderful, elderly lady named Mary. I knew that I liked Mary when she told me that she has breakfast every morning at a diner downtown, and the owners don’t charge her because she brings in more customers for them.
Then, Mary became my hero when she told us how she had become a widow when her youngest child was three years old. She and her husband had moved to my parents’ small town from Ann Arbor and she desperately wanted to move back home. However, the town rallied around Mary and her three young children and they found another family in the kindness of others, so she stayed.
That was forty+ years ago, and now, at the age of 89, Mary is still living life to the fullest.
She shared stories about her last knee replacement and the conversation she had with her doctor about not wanting to go home when it was time to discharge her. After all, she was comfortable and the nurses were so nice. She got to stay an extra four days. I want Mary on my team the next time I have a medical need.
However, her funniest and most poignant story was about her helping move one of her friends into assisted living. She described eating lunch in the cafeteria with her friend and observing the rest of the residents. One woman looked vaguely familiar to her except for the fact that she was clearly not communicating with other people.
Mary, not to miss an opportunity to meet a new person, even if they are semi-comatose, asked the nurse at the desk about the vaguely familiar woman and she gave Mary her name. She said, “My gosh! I know that woman. I haven’t seen her in two years and now she doesn’t even recognize me!” I asked if she thought that the woman had gotten dementia in the past couple of years and Mary said, dryly, “Well, one of us isn’t the same anymore and it isn’t me.”
It must be hard to be Mary’s age. Many of her old friends are gone and some of the ones who are still here are in poor health. Yet, Mary just keeps going, driving around in her spiffy white car (which was backed into my parents’ driveway at a jaunty angle) and making new friends.
On my way home, while laughing with Teenage Daughter about Mary and hoping that I am blessed with good health as an oldster, I realized something important (get your pencil out and write this down). The secret to a happy life is not what you’ve been given, nor what you don’t have and think you need. It’s all about perspective or how we view the world.
It’s almost a new year and a time for new beginnings. Maybe a new perspective too – it couldn’t hurt.