Since Thanksgiving, illness has been keeping me away. The Big Bad Flu must have seen that stress had turned my house of health to straw, and he huffed and puffed and blew it in. Since then, I have huffed and puffed, and sneezed and wheezed, and coughed and hacked, and snorted and groaned, and asked, “Huh?” a lot.
So has Big D.
This comes on the heels of a friend’s more serious illness. My 90-something-year-old friend – I’ll call her Ms. Stitch – has been in and out of the hospital for chronic pain. Ms. Stitch and I have grown very close this past year, and I have learned so much from her. As an early Christmas present, I thought I’d share some of her secrets to a long, fulfilling life – during the holidays and all year round.
Keep Setting Goals
As you may have guessed from her pseudonym, Ms. Stitch likes to sew. More specifically, she likes to quilt. She has made dozens of full-sized quilts for her grandchildren. Once her family circle started expanding to great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, she scaled the quilts down to what she calls “lap rugs” or “old-fashioned string quilts.” “There’s no rhyme or rhythm to them,” she tells me, “and no two alike.”
Ms. Stitch likes to sew every single day she can, so once her family members had received their quilts, it was time to set new goals. This was when her mission began. She wanted to make 100 lap rugs for – get this – the elderly folks in retirement homes. She considered how cold these buildings can be, and she wanted to help keep the residents warm. She imagined each person with a quilt of their own, draped over their legs as they sat in wheelchairs.
Her talents have also blessed friends (including me), church members, and complete strangers. I’ve seen her send quilts home with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the pest control guy.
Read, Read, Read
Ms. Stitch likes to read Love Inspired books. They have “no sex, no violence, no language,” or what I like to call “no point.” I’m kidding – the point is that it doesn’t matter your taste, just read.
I also learned this from another friend of mine who lived to be 94. She read murder mystery books every week, the Sunday paper every weekend, and then completed the paper’s crossword puzzle. This kept her mind sharp – much sharperer than mine.
*And speaking of reading, I’m currently reading The Seneca Scourge, a thriller by blogging buddy Carrie Rubin. If you’re looking for a great gift for the bookworm in your life, this is a winner. Literally. This book has won awards. Check it out here. Purchase it here.*
Enjoy Food like a Teenager
Ms. Stitch likes cold pizza for breakfast. In fact, she could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She has boasted to me many times, “I can eat anything I want!” And she does. One time I asked if I could pick up anything for her at the grocery store, and she handed me a list. It read:
- Chocolate Ice Cream
I’m not suggesting you only eat like a teenager, but there’s something to be said for enjoying your food, which is certainly akin to enjoying your life.
Over the years, there have been many things Ms. Stitch has had to give up – working, gardening, hiking, driving. She has confessed to me that whenever she is tempted to sit around and feel sorry for herself, she gets busy with something she can do. She writes a letter, calls a friend, sits in the sunlight, watches an old movie, or does her “arthritis therapy” – otherwise known as knitting.
Don’t Be Afraid to Boss
Why be shy? If there’s something you need or want, say so. Ms. Stitch always has a job for me whenever I see her. My main domain is safety pins. I help pin quilt tops to the backing and batting. When a quilt is complete, she leaves the pins for me to remove.
One of the first times Big D met her, Ms. Stitch came out to the driveway waving something in her hand. How sweet, he thought, she has a card for me. “Take this to the mailbox for me,” she instructed.
Nobody’s hands are idle when they visit Ms. Stitch. I’ve seen her preacher take out her garbage. I’ve also seen him step in a whopping dog pile in her yard. And that’s another secret . . .
Keep Your Sense of Humor
Ms. Stitch keeps me in stitches. We have a lot of fun together, and her humor is often directed at herself. Not taking herself too seriously, she laughs at her age-related humanity – memory loss, thin skin, “fake ears” (hearing aids), “fake eyes” (glasses), and false teeth. She accepts the changes life has handed her with grace – knowing that the personality inside of her is stronger than ever.
She told me the other day that she didn’t like the style of a pair of her shoes. She crumpled up her nose as she modeled them for me and said, “They’re just not what old ladies should wear.”
Say, “I Love You”
It’s common knowledge that when you reach a certain age, you can say anything you want. Ms. Stitch uses that power for good, and often tells me with a goodbye hug, “I love you.” I feel my heart go all gooey and warm when she tells me that. And of all the things that need saying, it seems the most important.
I love and appreciate all of you, and I wish 90-something happy Christmas seasons for you and your loved ones.
This will most likely be my last post for the year. I plan to go into full swing for the holidays, and spend time with family. I hope you have the best holidays ever, and I look forward to hearing all about them in the New Year!