For a couple of years now, I have been trying to shrink obligations and outside responsibilities. Gradually I have stopped some. I’ve also expressed a desire to simply be a member of those organizations I belong to—trying to be a good follower of others who are leading rather than having leadership duties.
So when my friend Jari Jackson asked me to join the local Women’s Club after I had spoken there, I explained all this to her. However, I was impressed with this group. A large proportion (majority perhaps—not quite sure yet) of these women are much older than I am! And I admired the younger members of the club (many just a year or a few years younger than me) who want to keep meetings during the afternoon so these longtime members can continue to participate. However, with so many women employed these days, this makes it difficult to enlist younger members.
Since I am no longer employed outside the home and can usually take off whenever I want, that made me a potential member and amazingly one of the “young ones.” I liked the idea that suddenly I was young. I liked the women there, and I liked the programs and the causes supported. I noticed that many were absent without anyone seeming peeved.
So I told Jari that I’d join if I could just be a member and attend when I can, not feel guilty when I miss, and not have to serve on committees or get caught with the crunch of a responsibility that I accepted and then later worried if I would have the time to fulfill. I like the idea of knowing if I fail to make a group’s meeting, no one is hurt by my absence but me. I particularly liked the fact that this group does not meet in the summer and only once a month.
The new club year has started, and once again I am inspired by these long-time club members. Many have had careers in addition to being a homemaker. All are talented, skilled, abreast of what is going on in the world, well traveled, and friendly. Our year started with a luncheon meeting, and the program was a talk by Cindy Gunnin, the program chair and vice president of Southern Illinois Writers Guild. Cindy blames me for her being in that job (a very time consuming one), so I figured I better try to attend if I could.
My seat mate at the luncheon was one of our most delightful members—Ruth was 99 on her birthday last summer and celebrated it with her family at a Saint Louis Cardinals game. She is an accomplished pianist, and when she handed me the club book to read the Collect with the others, she said it from memory. She is also blind now. What an example she is for someone young like me!
This month my friend Loretta (a year younger than me) had the program showing us a slide show of her and Frank’s summer tour up the Blue Danube with her daughter and husband and the daughter’s mother-in-law. Loretta’s knowledge she had picked up during the tour was exciting, and a large book collection on display showed she had studied well before and after the tour. Since I have always wanted to travel overseas but have accepted the fact that I never will, I especially enjoyed this vicarious tour. I was surprised at the number who raised their hands when Loretta asked how many had been to Europe. Their comments and questions added to the program. This time my nearest seat companion was only 95. She went out of her way to take care of me and make sure I appreciated Ruth a few seats away.
Loretta used to live in our village and reared four fine children while succeeding at various business careers. When they had two children close together, she and Frank sat in adjoining rocking chairs getting their little ones to sleep. I was somewhat surprised once when told me that she always put her job ahead of her kids—I’d heard many a woman say the opposite, but never heard anyone say that. I was not sure I believed her since I think her kids were always well cared for, but I enjoyed hearing a woman not apologize for her career but feel as if it was important to her family’s well being. She and Frank were one of the most hospitable couples we knew, and they were always having others over for dinner.
In retirement, she and Frank were recruited by a local funeral home to serve as host and hostess to the families and visitors. One time when Loretta and I went out to lunch while she was between jobs, she had told me wonderful stories of the wakes in families’ homes down in Johnson County before there were funeral homes there. She told me how much she enjoyed these warm and caring rural neighborhood gatherings when she was a child. So when Gerald and I would be greeted by Frank and Loretta when we attended a visitation at the funeral home, I always remembered this and knew they were the perfect pair to be taking care of those in grief.
This afternoon we drove down to Anna in Union County to attend a surprise 80th birthday party for a classmate of Gerald. Ermadell was one of nine children. The three boys in the family have passed away, but her five sisters are still around to carry off this surprise party complete with photographs they had sneaked out of Ermadell’s home for a collage and also to decorate the tables along nuts and candies. All kinds of plotting had taken place including a previous birthday dinner at a local eatery with gifts and singing all designed to fool Ermadell. The sisters were smug that they succeeded. The youngest sister Peggy, who was a close friend of Gerald’s sister Ernestine, was called upon to tell Ermadell her recent dream during all this party scheming. Peggy said she had never written a poem in her life, but she did in her dream. She woke up laughing at the poem, which had the repetitive refrain: You are older than dirt! That had then become the line for one of the banners decorating the room.
I thought that was quite far fetched. With the ladies I have been hanging out with, I consider Ermadell nothing but a spring chicken.
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