Thoughts, by Susie Handy
So I’ve learned a couple of things today. I knew there was potentially great opportunity for knowledge gain, instead of brain drain, this week, but such stark truths about life are always moving and inspiring to me. So, I’m here to share, with you, my nearest and dearest. (This is assuming you’ve not completely given up on me due to my recent absences and lack of writing…if so, thanks for hanging in!)
The first thing I learned was today at lunch. The ladies at my grandmother’s table eat Jell-o. Not nuts, right? Jell-o with some fruit in it. I’ve been known to eat the same thing, although there’s often vodka involved. Don’t ask for Kate’s bachelorette weekend recipe ok? Watermelon soaked in vodka may taste good, but it is decidedly NOT a good idea. Don’t do it. Well, maybe once. But never again ;)
Anyway. You’ve got your Jell-o salad (which a friend of mine and I were discussing: do they still render horses for Jell-o and gelatin?), and you grab some ranch dressing…and smother the Jell-o in the dressing! Has anyone heard of such a thing? Well, the ladies seem to have it down pat and I might just have to try it before my week at Blue Oaks is over. Which, all of the sudden, seems to be creeping up quickly.
The second thing was revealed at dinner. I sat with Cliff and Tom, two of the very nice men who live here. We started dinner discussing what a great guy my grandfather is/was. Joe Weber died 8 months ago and he’s still well respected around these parts. This makes me proud and also want to cry. When Tom asked why, if there is a God, why God would take my grandfather. Unfortunately the first thing that came to mind, was what I though was funny: Only the good die young. My grandpa was 84 years old. Get it?
OK, fine. Not funny. Anyway. If you can’t joke, why live? Not being funny isn’t going to bring him back.
So, sitting with Tom and Cliff we got to talking. Tom has a bit of a stutter; he talks about being the “dumbest kid to graduate from his high school and working his way through Cal Berkeley”. Berkeley is no small shakes. And he’s proud of himself, as he should be. We talked at dinner and between the two gentlemen, who each probably hear 50% of what anyone says, and me who is talking at a decibel higher than everyone else in the room, we were quite a table (the burger was actually pretty good, too).
After we’d come upstairs from dinner Tom told me about his life a little. I’d asked him what he did when he was working since we’d talked about my work for a good portion of dinner. He went into his story-quite an amazing and interesting one, I might add-and the culminating points were the things he thinks about now. Dancing with beautiful French women in Paris was one of the loveliest stories. The compliment he received from one of the women who said the other ladies he’d danced with had said he was fabulous and she, not being an outstanding dancer, didn’t want to dance with him. He called this, “the first complement he’d ever received.” Then he lamented that his father had never given him a compliment in all his life. Well, at least not that he could remember.
Lesson: people always need to be listened to and, better yet, heard. We all want to tell our stories. But at around 80 or 90 years old, what is it that Tom remembers and talks about? Some world travel, some occupational successes, but more? He says he thinks about dancing in Paris since he has MS and can never do that again. And he thinks about the compliments of young Parisian ladies; and the compliments he never received from his father.
So this I pledge to you: When a compliment is on the tip of my tongue, I will never hold it back. And I hope that one day one of the compliments I give will be on the mind of some man who years ago couldn’t imagine he’d summon that moment or those words to help him remember where he’d come from.
I anticipate this will be just the beginning of what I learn this week. Being with my grandma has been lovely. She went to bed tonight giggling and I loved hearing her happy. She’s doing well; today was a good day.
Looks like really shitty weather back east. Maybe I’ll change my ticket back to New York. Just kidding, Mom!
I’m reading a book that I’m really enjoying. It’s called Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I was looking for a passage that I loved today but I can’t find it. I didn’t mark it. I’m passing the book on, so I’m trying to keep my annotations limited. Which is actually a challenge for me since pretty much everything I do is a conversation. No wonder I work better in groups.
What else can I tell you? Probably a lot. But I’ll spare you.
One bummer about being on the West coast is that when the east coast goes to bed, I stop getting email. I’m going to have to start getting used to being out of communication for a few hours a night! I did get used to it, but then I got my Sidekick back. Il connectido. That’s not a word.
Mucho amor the sweets of my life.