An ad in the Toledo City Paper, a cheesecake, and a 7th grade English teacher (far too overworked to be selling baked goods on the side) brought an 84 year old into my life. The tantalizing photo of her key lime cake in the 1⁄4 page photo of the November issue lured Marjorie into placing an order. A long phone conversation followed, with Marjorie and Kathryn realizing they had a mutual acquaintance — me! Marjorie had known my grandmother and we had met at various social occasions. Upon hearing that she needed someone to check in on her from time to time, I immediately jumped on board. The first time I entered her home, I felt as if I was walking into a condensed version of past grandeur. Remnants of a former life with her beloved Bill hugged every corner. He was a self-made businessman but had a passion for horses and the outdoors. Certainly this explains why a dainty lady of beauty and grace has an antelope head, enormous bull horns (that make you sympathize for the critter that was once attached to them), and two stuffed birds of prey on her wall.
One morning, I told her that even though I did not know her late husband, I had heard that he was a good man. She winked at me, and said, “Oh yes, but he was a bad boy!” From that moment on I discarded my “filtration system” and realized that every topic was fair game. My teens are saturated with images of reality TV women. My Gram would always tell me that God is in the planning, the devil is into plotting. My teen girls have been conned into thinking that the over endowed women of these shows, who connive and manipulate their way toward a man or money, are worthy of their respect. What a blessing it has been for my daughters to know a woman, who through careful planning, helped her family through a depression, war, medical crisis, and loss. Is it a testament of strength to eat a cockroach for a known dollar amount while wearing a bikini as seen on TV, or is it tougher to be with one man, through the ups and downs of life without a hint of “What’s in it for me?” She credits our friendship with allowing her to keep her independence. Many think my time with her is a selfless act. Hah! I know the score and so does she. While I make certain she doesn’t fall in the shower, she showers me with love and encouragement. Marjorie is the supplier of unconditional love, an open mind, and a giving heart
Knowing of my journey through breast cancer, she is constantly coaching me on finding my “inner girl” and getting it out there! I’m not sure what that means but I am making progress. We have shared our frustrations with physical limitations, histories, families and our bizarre taste in hats. I own, as my daughters say, “The hat we will not claim you in.” It looks like something Yukon Jack would be proud to wear. While opening the hall closet in Marjorie’s home, I came face to face with what I originally thought was a dead rodent on the shelf in front of me. As my Pops would say, “It scared the peewadon out of me.” Upon closer inspection, I discovered with great disbelief, a hat stranger than mine, complete with fox tail and beady eyes. Her oxygen tanks and the hat are in the same location. I moved the hat so I wouldn’t need to dip into her supply.
She is an amazing listener. I hope this is due to her heartfelt interest in sharing my “bucket list” and not due to the fact that she is a captive audience without an assist off the couch. In either case, like any true friend, she endures on my behalf. At Marjorie’s side, I have learned everything from how to make the perfect salad dressing to the art of wearing a wool shawl without looking like a human band-aid. The most important knowledge I have gained is that friends come in all shapes, sizes, colors and especially ages. Even though her well endowed “assets” may be a tad lower than those found on reality TV, her strength and wisdom are the real deal.