“Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.” -Girl Scouts of the USA
While I was in Russia, I had gotten a voicemail from a friend who was trying to track me down. Because it was her daughter who had called, and given me three different phone numbers to get in touch…. I immediately thought something bad had happened.
As you see, this woman – who I madly fell in love with the MOMENT I MET HER – no lie – just turned 98 years old.
She was one of these women who you knew, just from a distance, you could possibly be best friends with. Her name is Winnie, and she is what her name conjures (at least to me), short, white hair, a little round, with a twinkle in her eye. But don’t let the snow under the cap fool you. She’s wicked fast and wicked smart and still drives and reads at night without a light.
We were neighbors in Maine, when we still had our summer house. One day (about 13 years ago) when I was outside with my youngest – bouncing him on my hip, she tapped my hip and told me to stop doing that because it wasn’t doing my hip any good.
I remember when my dad called me, it was June, informing me that he was getting re-married (my mom had only passed away seven months earlier). I stormed right over to Winnie’s house. I needed someone to vent to and someone to cry on. She let me, but then she told me something that has stuck forever and ever. First, she said that my dad was a man before he was my father.
Gulp. Hard to swallow.
Yeah, he was, of course he was. Why hadn’t I seen it before? I had to keep telling myself that my dad was a man before he was my dad. Over and over. I only had a few seconds to tell myself that before she laid something even bigger on my heart that turned me right around. Completely.
She said, “Helena, you listen to me now. Your dad really loved being married to your mom. He had a good life with her. Why wouldn’t he want that again? He deserves to love and to be loved. He deserves a companion. His getting married again tells me how much he loved being married to your mom.” My heart melted.
While I stormed over to her house, I waltzed back to mine.
She has been a mother, a grandmother, and friend to me. Who can be that all wrapped up in one tiny little Winnie body? Just Winnie. And I was lucky enough to have bought the house right next door. God is SO good.
To get back to the frantic phone call from last night. I called her when I landed back in Italy, from the airport. I didn’t want to hear about any type of bad news, but I guess I must’ve had my big girl panties on, so I held my breath and dialed the number.
Her daughter got on first, passed me over to Winnie – and when I heard her voice it made my heart sing. Same raspy voice, same matter-of-fact attitude – a true New Englander at heart – Winnie – alive and VERY well. Just wanted to chat and catch up.
I can’t even type this without my eyes watering, of course listening to Norah Jones isn’t helping either.
Winnie passed the phone back to one of her daughters (she has many!) who said that her mom was really missing me (be-still my heart) and appreciated hearing from me. And then said………….. “you know Helena, by the time you get to my mother’s age, not many of your friends are left so the friendship she has with you means a lot.”
When she said that, it rung true with what I had seen with my own grandmother, who passed away at the age of 99. By then, my grandmother had no parents left, some of her siblings had passed away, her husband passed away, two of her four children had passed away, and oodles and oodles of friends had died.
I guess being that age, not only makes you grateful for the life you’ve had but perhaps as well, a little sad for the life you lived with those who have passed on. And the younger people in your life, you become truly blessed for their friendship.
What I know for certain, is that I love and adore Winnie. And that maybe sometime in the future I will be a Winnie-type for someone much younger than me!! The cycle of life.
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