I had lunch yesterday with my 91-year-old friend.
It’s not what you might imagine. I did not go visit her in the nursing home. We did not dine over bland mashed potatoes and red Jell-O. No, not my friend. She invited me to lunch. She made a reservation. I dressed for the occasion, pretending to be one of those ladies-who-lunch. She drove. She talked intelligently. She didn’t drool or spill ketchup on her shirt. She asked about details from my life that she recalled accurately since we had lunch a few years ago. She challenged me. Told me what she thought. Asked questions as if wanting to learn something new at her old age.
I love my friend.
She told me about this club she started. After leaving a retirement community (and losing tens of thousands of dollars to do so) because she wasn’t ready to “give up and die,” she rented an apartment. She and another widow started sharing a glass of wine during the summer evenings on the patio. Before long, someone noticed their fun and asked to join. They are up to eight ladies now. They call themselves the “70 and 80s Women at the Portico.” Spontaneous geriatric group therapy, I thought to myself. I laughingly told her she needs to change the name, given that well, she is 90 now.
I love my friend. And what I love most is that she’s alive. Rather than her soup spilling on her blouse, her spirit overflows with vitality. She enthusiastically told me three times how great her sandwich was. And that the cup for her tea was too hard to drink … how do you manage a square tea cup? She eventually gave up in frustration. I asked her some honest questions. Before I finished the sentence, she said with passion, “no!” Okay, then. This woman has a thought, and a mind, and a heart. I asked her if she was bored. For, after 91 years of living, you still get the same choices – beef or chicken? Mountains or beach? Bath or shower? She looked at me strangely and said, “life is one grand adventure. Who knows? Maybe the key lime pie we just ordered (of course, she wanted dessert) will be awful.”
I love my friend.
She did say that she gets lonely sometimes. Her kids don’t call enough. And friends are sick or dead. But she volunteers at the local library. And she reads. And sometimes she feels crappy and then she just sits with the crappy till the crappy goes away. And of course, she has her club of women who drink wine at the portico.
I listened to her in awe, my body perched on the edge of the chair. I was watching a legend. Not only has this woman done life, but she keeps doing it. I want to be just like her someday.
Before we departed, she told me we should do this again soon. Before she’s no longer around. My heart saddened. I knew what she meant. (Here she goes again – speaking difficult truth so freely.) But I resisted her honesty. I didn’t want to know what she meant. She is a gift I don’t want to let go of.
But I know she’s right. At the age of 91, you surely can’t take the future for granted. None of us can, really. We can only hope to milk this baby as long and deeply as we possibly dare. And thanks to my 91 year-old-friend, I have witnessed such possibility.