Sunday, November 8, 2009

Our own Fountain of Youth in the wrinkles of the mind

Dear Blog, friends, family, anyone who chances upon this entry:

I am so lucky to have as a friend a 99-year-old woman. Whenever I see her, I’m reminded what a treasure she is in my life.

Grace is my friend Frank’s mother, and I should accept his offers for dinner more often for two reasons 1) he’s an excellent chef, and I learn so much as I watch him prepare our meal – one of my favorite desserts is vanilla ice cream, sprinkles of instant coffee crystals topped by brandy (a Julia Child creation!) , 2) and then there’s Grace.

So aptly named is this woman. She’s tiny, like you expect a 99-year-old to be. Because of a fall last year, she now uses a walker to get around their home. Previous to that, she used a cane, but she’s doing just fine with the walker. Nothing, and I mean nothing, keeps her down.

I’ve known her for a very long time and she’s one of those people who makes you feel that you’re the treasure in her life. I love our conversations on so many topics – politics gets her fired up, family members I don’t know spark opinions, and then there are those cherished memories of the past that take me along with her.

She’s a vivid storyteller, and I doubt I can do justice to the tale she shared last Wednesday.

At a holiday party for the employees of the bank where she worked as a young woman, there was a definite line of demarcation between the strata of a bank – bank officers didn’t mingle with lowly non-bank officers. And the officers’ wives sounded like a snooty bunch of biddies, who really didn’t want to associate with employees, and wishing they didn’t have to be at the party.

So there was this one bank officer, not sure what his position was, but he had made quite a name for himself as a football hero in college. Tall, handsome, and a genuinely nice guy, according to Grace. He didn’t fall in line with the other officers’ officious ways when it came to employees, preferring to treat them as equals.

Somehow, this banker asked Grace for a dance – I’m a little confused as to the circumstances leading up to the invitation, and there was something about the grousing wives not wanting to dance with their husbands because they didn’t want to be at the party.

Whatever, Grace and this banker danced a waltz, and I’m not sure, but I think she left Frank and me at the dinner table to take a precious trip back in time as she described that wonderful dance.

Her face simply glowed, and I swear she became that young woman again right in front of us. That memory of him asking her to dance and guiding her along the waltz became a deep drink from the fountain of youth.

Her hands danced, sweeping the air in waltz time as she described the scene – them gliding along the dance floor while officers’ wives clucked disapprovingly as the bank officer dared to dance with an employee – God forbid!

I almost got the impression she had a bit of a crush on the guy, but such a thing was so “not done” in those times. So there was just this friendly, harmless waltz between two friends … that is now a dear memory loop for a 99-year-old woman that took her listeners along with each measured step.

So students, what’s the lesson here? Forget Ponce de Leon’s quest for that legendary fountain. Cherish memories, keep them close. Resurrect lost friends and loved ones, keep the mind active as you grasp those glimpses “just right,” and enjoy, for just a moment, a deep swig from the fountain of youth.

I’m ready for a dose – how about you?

Thanks for checking in on me – Cathie Lou

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