She lives in a trailer on the side of a highway on property where her family has lived for 7 generations. You might see her in grubby sneakers and a man’s sweatshirt on the five acres between the highway and the woods. Her garden had more weeds than vegetables and she cuts five acres of grass in the shapes of ovals, circles, figure 8s, or paisley prints.
No more migraines from trying too hard, she has chosen to be transparent. If you visit and her house is a mess, just scoot the newspapers out of a chair and sit down. If you want a cup of coffee, help yourself. You can even make it if the pot is not on.
She tries to learn some new skill each month, but good enough is good enough. She is not a perfectionist in any one of them. She painted summer clouds on a bedroom ceiling and trees along the walls. Her kitchen, where all her entertaining is done, is repainted every year or when the feeling strikes, or if she finds a cool paint cheap. She hand paints flowers on her kitchen cabinets, then washes them off when a new season comes.
She might let you help rescue a preloved bear for a toy drive, or wrap gifts for a Sunday School class. You can help plant a garden or paint your own creation on her wall beneath van Gogh’s Starry Night. She doesn’t try to pretend that she is pretty or smart or even organized. She’ll just be herself and let you be you. She’s delighted to have you visit and will think you are wonderful anyway. she chooses, rebelling against the schedules she obeyed before she retired. A good book may keep her reading until 3 am because she knows she can cut off the alarm and go back to sleep until 10 am.
When she and her friends go out to eat, people peer at their table to see if their gaiety is caused by alcohol. The group may range in number from 3 to 25, but they obviously love each other’s company whether playing games, singing hymns, or joining hands in prayer around a dying neighbor. None have to be alone unless they so choose.
She has fond memories of colleagues she taught with for 25 years and tries to stay in touch as much as a busy retirement schedule allows, the schedule SHE decides. She was most proud of being a member of the best faculty in Alabama and bragged about it to all she met at state meetings. Their sisterhood shifted and increased with retirements and deaths, but a core of twenty supported each other through life changes, desegregation, children’s illnesses, their struggles with teenagers, and the sadness of caring for ailing parents. They went to each others’ kid’s weddings and cried at the wakes of their friends parents , knowing that their time of sorrow would come.
She has lunch regularly with friends of 60 years ago. They take turns sharing news of other high school classmates who survive. Then they share pictures of grandchildren and look for likenesses to the middle generation. Sometimes they cry together and other times they giggle like the 15 year-olds they had been. Every 5 years they invite the whole class to a homecoming party and end the fun remembering those who already have gone on.
She’s always starting something. A senior group, a library, and meals on wheels program. She helped organize a volunteer fire department. She became a nationally certified firefighter at 62. Even though she’s far too fat to go in a burning building, she’s lobbied for funds, baked cakes, kept the minutes, comforted victims, and even stomped out grass fires. She published a department newsletter and collected data on residents for emergency calls. She was awarded Romulus Firefighter of the year at the county awards banquet.
Her unsuccessful attempt to get all the community reading left her with thousands of books in the 16×24 foot addition to her home. She donated 400 books from her collection to the new high school and collected enough to complete her vow of 1000. She reads 2 to 5 books a week and is always handing someone a book, “you ought to read”.
She has a new project, writing for newspapers, websites, and blogs online. She especially likes Alabamapioneers.com. She loves to say,” just GOOGLE ME”, as if she is a real author. No money yet, but many articles in print to establish a resume’.
She has cut 1000s of silhouettes of children freehand and is delighted when people come up and say, “My mom still has the silhouette you did of me 40 years ago.” Every class had the experience either for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or Mother’s Day. Somehow the ones done of her own children finally dropped from the refrigerator door into the waste basket.
After eight years of caring for her beloved husband who had both strokes and Alzheimer’s she volunteered with Hospice and helping dying patients and their families. These experiences helped when she was hanging out with her mother through declining years.
Four biological children became six with stepdaughters, one found in the months before her husband’s death who was warmly welcomed into the Gast bunch. This process was added to the family history. Now there are children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren..
She is sometimes alone, but never lonely. She has prints by Monet, and Van Gogh, movies and music at hand, many internet friends, and more family than she can afford birthday, graduation, wedding, and Christmas gifts for. She has known sorrow and grief, pain and disappointment, but found the ridiculous to laugh in all of them. Her silly grin implies she is an innocent of world’s troubles, but she has faith that the God who took care of her in the past is still able to do it in the future and will someday escort her HOME.
She’s in her bonus years and would just as soon be gone, as doing her own thing here. Although she envies those organized enough to put tomorrow’s to do list on her night stand, she’d rather wake up and ask, “LORD, what are we going to do today.”
She loves to feed people. Not the stiff formal china, crystal, silver, centerpiece on the table kind of entertaining, but the “Hey I just made a pot of chili and some cornbread, come over in an hour” call. “And bring your dominoes”. She’ll probably try to send food home with you. Especially if you wash the dishes.
Her ambition is to live a long time without growing old and has the genes for that. Her greatest fear is losing her usefulness, of being store housed like an out of date book taking shelf space from the newer additions. So she stores her thoughts and memories in words, as bits and bytes of data. Maybe she’ll leave tracks on hearts and minds that share a common vibration. Soon books themselves will no longer be useful and more convenient media will remind her descendants of days gone by.