When I first met my neighbor Josie (who I nick-named ‘Trouble’) she was a feisty, kick-butt go get ’em kind of gal who ran circles around women 20 years her junior. She was a gourmet cook, an adjunct college professor and an all-around real-life know-it-all.
For some reason she took a liking to me and chose to fit me into her days on a regular basis. She would call me over throughout the week to taste test recipes which was a pleasure since my cooking consisted primarily of grilled cheese and tuna melts.
Early each morning, Josie forced me to join her on her daily constitutional as she liked to call them. I believe we were supposed to be walking but it felt more like mini-sprints. I had my rules. If I couldn’t talk or breathe I would stop.
I stopped every day at the end of our block.
Josie would return bright-eyed and cheery a half-hour later and make me breakfast as a reward for making the attempt!
Our communal garden was a testament to Josie’s green thumb. Every conceivable flower and vegetable made its debut once a year. In some instances I could not even identify what was growing but all summer long we had the freshest salads in the neighborhood!
Last month, Josie decided to take up art. She enrolled us in a painting class. Her masterpiece is prominently displayed on her living room wall. The teacher said I could re-enroll next semester without charge in order to finish mine.
Each night around sunset, Josie and I would touch base on our porches before retiring. We would b.s. back and forth exchanging world views as easily as dirty jokes.
One evening Josie was a ‘no-show.’ I started over to her door when I heard the ambulance and saw her husband and children running outside.
Josie had suffered a stroke.
When next I set eyes on her she was leaning in a wheelchair, covered in a thick shawl. She looked smaller and older than I remembered but her smile though crooked was still dazzling and her eyes still sparkled. Her speech was slower but her voice still had the lilt I loved.
Josie’s world had shrunk overnight from exotic travel destinations to the few rooms in her condo. But it’s what she does with her surroundings that gives me pause and perspective.
When Josie feels well enough to eat her husband brings her breakfast in bed.
She calls it ‘dining out.’ They listen to soft music in the background and light candles as though they were sharing a table together along a Parisian boulevard. On days when Josie has some strength her husband wheels her into the living room and they watch old movies together huddled under the blanket. She calls it ‘date night.’ And on the most special of days when Josie is doing really well her husband takes her for a walk outside in her wheelchair.
She calls it ‘going on vacation.’
Despite the fact that Josie is not expected to make a full recovery, she continues to dine al fresco, go to the movies and take lots of mini-vacations.
She is grateful to listen to her grandchildren giggle, to smell a summer barbeque, to share a laugh with her favorite neighbor and to be here for another day.
I am grateful for her simple life lesson; Pause and Perspective.