It was during a Wednesday morning walk around our neighborhood that the Universe literally plunked a delightful soul in our path.
An “Elderly” Lady
We saw her step out of a business and onto the sidewalk. We veered off into the grass, giving her the right of way.
“Thank you,” she said, “For moving to let me have the sidewalk.” And with great pride she made the announcement, “I’m 93!”
We congratulated her on being 93 years old.
Her friendly spunk, thin, mostly upright body, and the fact that she was out walking to do her business reminded me of my Grandma Princess who, into her nineties, walked daily to the post office in her little town.
She continued with great enthusiasm. “I still work, too. At the food pantry on Tuesdays, and I play volleyball once a week.”
Survivor of War
Turns out, she is from Holland, and remembers when the Canadian army emancipated her town when she was 15 years old. She remembers the German tanks driving out of town. She remarked how Hitler did not blow up their town the way they do in war today. “Hitler was just after the Jews.”
BF asked her if she lost Jewish friends.
“Yes,” she said. “There was one family where the parents returned from Auschwitz but their 5-year-old child did not.”
“I remember when they rounded them up and marched to the train station. I was there and saw it.”
I asked if, at the time, she had any idea of where they were headed.
“No. We found out later.”
We talked about how cruel humans can be to one another, and she told a story so horrifying I wouldn’t repeat it without her permission.
She married a farmer of Dutch descent and together they raised a family in this area. She last visited Holland the week of 9/11. The experience of being so far away when airplanes had wreaked havoc on the world, and flying home the next week wondering if a small plane might fly into the one on which she was a passenger scared her so badly, she hasn’t returned.
“The War is something the people who lived through it will never forget,” she said. She tapped the teeth behind her beautiful smile, “These are false. We all have them because we didn’t have enough to eat during the war.”
“I never pass a man wearing a ‘Veteran’ cap without thanking him.” She continued, “This past memorial I sat by myself and watched TV, crying as I saw the crosses in the cemetery memorializing young, young men who gave their lives so I could be free.”
We just stood there on the sidewalk, listening.
She moved toward walking on, “Well, I’ve told you my life story. Guess I’d best get going.”
Until We Meet Again
We said our goodbyes and she took off down the sidewalk.
We watched her scurry across the busy street in her flashy tennis shoes, not bothering to go to a crosswalk.
BF and I stopped for coffee and talked about our encounter and with inspiration. The vibrancy of this woman. We talked about her sense of purpose and pride. Her dedication to body movement and socialization. Her closeness with family both here and in Holland. Her healthy connection to a traumatic past. To us, it all seemed to add up to an indelible will to be happy.
Was that her secret? Her will to be happy?
I hope to run into her again and invite her to sit down and talk more–ask permission to share her name and a photo. More of her story. But for now, I’m ever so grateful to have met her and add her perspective to my current thoughts on age and aging.