This hot spicy lady trying to steal my man at my sister's wedding is a believer in dessert with every meal, and beating elementary aged schoolchildren at rummy and then collecting the money she required them to bet. She's 85, but really she has never been a day over 30. She hasn't been a brunette in 25 years. She hates complainers, whiners, and excuse-makers. She spent a lot of her free time visiting the homes of families in need and promptly disconnecting their cable service while simultaneously offering to pay for the bills she believed in. Where I can barely remember my Gmail password, she sent birthday cards to every single one of her 6 children, 4 son-in-laws, 2 daughter-in-laws, 26 grandchildren, and even her granddaugher-in-laws and grandson-in-laws every year.
She eats baked goods in unreasonably thin slices to avoid guilt. She always has a perfect manicure and does her hair to get the mail. She has a personal computer with a string of Post-It note instructions to herself for a process beginning with "Turn on computer" and ending with "Press send" to become the most prolific emailer in her peer group. She loved to see the world, and didn't let travel advisories on Hezbollah attacks stop her from visiting Israel and the Middle East in 2006, or post-war conflict prevent her from visiting Bosnia in the late '90s. When her children told her not to go on a trip, she called them "Old Farts" and did what she wanted anyway. And usually came back saying "I'm so glad I didn't listen to you."
She loved to help others, but refused to be helped. If she thought a conversation was depressing, she changed the subject by asking irrelevant questions like, 'Paul, have you changed dentists?' or "Did you know that the Virign Mary wore a burqa?" and then serving dessert. She made it to Mass every morning, went to water aerobics, and cleaned out her friends at cards over lunch. She believed in continuing education even as an octagenarian, taking college courses in economics and world religions. She can't sit still, even after major surgery or on her deathbed (she disconnected herself from her IVs to get up and walk around).
She never missed a party, and loved to dance more than anyone I know. She never lived outside of Chicago, but had a collection of cowboy boots worn in from years of line dancing. She was a skilled ballroom dancer who taught me to Waltz and Polka, and could keep up with the Electric Slide, Ke$ha, and Beyonce. If there was a dance floor, she was on it.
I wish she could be out on the dance floor at my wedding in September. I am in love with these pictures of her dancing with Wes not even a year ago, because it reminds me of one of the things I love about her the most: she is infectiously optimistic and believed in having fun everyday. If there is anyone in the world who I want to grow up to be like, it is her. Even though she is gone, she will always remind me that I am only as old as I feel, to go out and make things happen, and to have a happy life.
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