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Wednesday
Jul202016

My elderly friend's philosophy of life in a nutshell...

A ninety-something friend called this morning to let me know about an upcoming luncheon. I am part of a sorority, PEO, that was started in the 1800's by a woman who didn't get into a sorority in college. Anti-establishment, wouldn't you say? My grandmother and aunts were members of PEO in the Midwest. The   friends my grandmother made sustained her through many trials, including losing a daughter, pregnant with her third child, to polio. "God really forsook me then," she used to say.

A few years ago, I took a plunge that I never took in college, and joined a sorority. I affectionately call it  'my secret society.'  I met a woman  through a mutual friend and when she mentioned "PEO" I became very nostalgic, recollecting my father's mother who was so involved.  "PEO raises money for women to go to college," the woman explained when I was contemplating joining,  "but mostly we go to lunch."  Yet another affirmation that this is my kind of group.

Don't ask me what PEO stands for because I pledged I wouldn't tell anyone. My grandfather used to say it means "pop eats out" since my grandmother wouldn't be home to cook on meeting days.  Later, it was suspected to mean "phone each other," since they did, which brings me to my friend's phone call this morning to let me know what restaurant we would descend upon for this month's luncheon.

I have a literal phobia of the telephone, so much so that I rarely answer my phone and have to muster up the courage to make even the simplest calls. But when my caller ID flashed "Retha" I fumbled for the remote to mute the television (It was under the Dalmatian), grabbed my smartphone, and successfully slid the awkward green button on the screen without accidentally hanging up on the caller. Technology exacerbates phobia.

Chatting does not come naturally to me. I have to remind myself, "Ask them how they are doing..." when I interact with people. I have a weird pragmatism that demands 'getting to the point,' perhaps stemming from my military upbringing, ('Answer the question!' my father demanded),  but its root cause is most likely social anxiety that causes me to live with an invisible barrier that hovers about 8 inches from my face. Like the layer of athmosphere that envelops the earth, I have an 8 inch thick miasma that I look through when I interact with people.  But I like to talk with Retha. 

When you reach your nineties, you must feel free to say or do just about anything you want. When I was turning forty, older friends coached me that they felt that entitlement at forty. Ninety being more than twice as old as forty, and with time running out along with the energy it takes to be reserved, I imagine any remaining  filters are just about gone. Maybe that's why I love older people. I'm guessing the bumper sticker "I tried to contain myself, but I escaped" describes them too.

Retha asked how I was doing, and after I gave my report, (get to the point, answer the question), I remembered to ask how she was doing. She always says "I'm GREAT!" She will soon be travelling to her family reunion where she is the matriarch. She told me about a little health scare but the biopsy was negative, and she asked the doctor why he didn't "put back the fatty tumor and spread it around" since she needs all the weight she can put on. She is soon to be a great-grandmother.

As we were saying good bye, she said "Now you go and be the smart artist that you are" and continued, "Over the years I developed a philosophy. I don't know when I thought of this... Maybe I've always seen life this way. I tell myself 'I love everybody, and I know everybody loves me, so everything is going to be alright! '" Maybe once all our reserve has been worn away by the years, all that is left is love. I hope so.

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