My buddy D would call her a color sponge. You’ve got the picture already, don’t you? She’s the kind of person who walks into a room and sucks the life and color right out of it.
She—let’s call her DL–showed up from nowhere at one of my knitting groups and quickly made her presence known. Loud, aggressive, and cranky, DL got up my nose in record time. She was like a duck waddling after a junebug, honking and pecking her way into every conversation she could. She had her stories to tell—all two of them—and told them at top volume to anyone who’d listen. How she loved to talk about all she used to do, as long as you understood (naked ploy for sympathy!) that she was “too old for that” now.
My friend S, a calm and wise person, told me to look on her as a warning of what not to be when I get old.
No problem. But it’d be good to have some positive models, wouldn’t it?
I got one today. Isn’t it cool how stuff you need just shows up?
I’ve been listening to The Writer’s Almanac, a five minute Garrison Keillor radio show, lately. Every day, he spends a few minutes telling stories of literary note—an “on this date in history” kind of segment–and then he reads a poem. I love being read to, and with that magical voice of his, I’m hooked.
Today, Keillor told me a while ago, would have been Georgia O’Keeffe’s birthday.
I know an O’Keeffe when I see it, but what I didn’t know was that O’Keeffe was forced to give up oil painting in 1972 when macular degeneration robbed her of all but her peripheral vision. She could have, like DL, decided she was “too old” or “too blind” to continue her work. She didn’t, though—instead of giving up the familiar path she’d been on, she found a new offshoot of the path and kept on working, this time in charcoal and pencil. Added to that, she learned how to work with clay and took up painting watercolors, all up until two years before her death.
O’Keeffe lived to age 98.
For all I know, she turned into a crabby old biddy as she aged. Keillor didn’t offer any information about that, and honestly, I don’t want to know. I want my admiration of O’Keeffe’s determination to keep on doing what she loved to be unsullied. I like that she didn’t give in and stomp off, bleating on and on about how she was too old. I like that she stayed engaged and challenged herself in her later years. I bet she had more than two stories to tell, too.
I wouldn’t mind being a lot like O’Keeffe when I’m an old biddy.
Mea culpa: I know, ducks quack; geese honk. I got caught up in the moment and let an inaccuracy slip past.