At 5'1 with snowy white hair, 87-year-old Sally has made an indelible imprint on my heart, not to mention a new perspective on some very important things.
Incredibly articulate and independent, this beautiful woman is widowed (that's the least of it, trust me and buckle your seat belts) smokes cigarettes, and drinks scotch each evening. Her witty sense of humor never misses a beat. The other day she lamented,
"Kaari, I don't think that even two men, a boy and a crow bar could get me out of these support pantyhose."
I haven't yet mentioned that she completes the New York Times Crossword every single day. I don't know about you, but I feel like a victorious, literary wizard if I get five of them right (not five crosswords, five words).
Sally is an inspiring artist/art educator whom I met through my volunteer "role" of creating art club for seniors. Truth be told, I turn on the lights, make coffee and encourage people as I don't know beans about art, not to mention the fact that my dominant hand is still in a brace.
This wise and joyful woman is not simply a widow as one might assume at her advanced age; Sally lost her husband 45 years ago, and also lost both of her two children in their early 20's of Huntington's disease. This fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive break down of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person's physical and mental abilities during their prime working years and has no cure. (hdsa.org).
Her entire life was literally eliminated leaving her standing on her own with the reality that three family members died of disease. Sally's only sister has passed away and she has lived alone ever since. Does she get sad? Most certainly, in her quiet way. But now, when I'm annoyed that I ran out of coffee creamer or that the dog woke me up in the middle of the night barking at a squirrel, I think of Sally and I stop and realize maybe I can just get over myself, thank you very much.
I have to truly get over myself because I witness her joy and humor living life to its fullest. Like the amazing fact that she built her own cabin in Northern Minnesota- By herself! This happy go lucky woman, who doesn't use a computer or cell phone, is enjoying every minute of every day in a fashion that may be unmatched by any of us. All I can say is, "You Go Girl"!
Cheers to each of you,