I’ve spent more time with folks who did not just fall off the turnip truck. They’ve been around the block, and this is not their first rodeo. OK, I’m talking about old folks. And I don’t use that term flippantly — I’m talking about nonagenarians in their nineties. I seem to have hit the nonagenarian jackpot.
You’re probably picturing a gentle grandma in a housedress, silver hair in a bun, quietly sitting with her cat in a house full of Precious Memories figurines, knitting and reminiscing about the good old days. Nope. These nonagenarians rock, especially my friend Syble.
Syble is 96. She’s been a widow for almost 25 years. She lives independently in her beautiful house. And she’s got it going on.
I want to be like Syble.
6 ways to stay vital and engaged
1. Play games
When she was younger, Syble played tennis and golf. Her tennis-playing days may be over, but now Syble plays bridge, mah-jongg, and Mexican train dominoes. She has standing dates for each of those every week. And she usually wins. Keep your fingers on your nickels and dimes when Syble is playing.
2. Go to Chicken Night
Chicken Night at the local country club is a big draw, and Syble doesn’t miss it. But it’s not just Chicken Night — it’s Mexican Night, trying the new sushi place, or out for barbecue at the Two Frogs (a popular local joint). And you can also find her at the Little Theatre play or at the fireworks display on the 4th of July.
Sometimes I’m a bit slug and want to hunker down and skip a night out. If my 96-year-old friend can make it to Chicken Night, so should I. (And I’ve learned you don’t want to miss Chicken Night. That’s some damn fine chicken).
3. Be the organizer
I tend not to be the one who organizes fun times with friends. I’m worried about who to invite and whether I might leave someone out. What if I choose a restaurant that isn’t good?
Or — my husband’s greatest fear — what if people stay past his bedtime? So I’m not the instigator, and we wait for kind friends to call us and include us in their plans. Not so, Syble. She organizes, invites, and includes; she gets the gals out. I’ll bet Syble never spends a night sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring.
But it’s more than that. Syble’s social circle is older women, most of them widows. I suspect there would be much more isolation and much less joy among that remarkable group of women if it weren’t for Syble.
4. Call your friends
All that planning requires a lot of communication, and it’s not texting. Syble picks up the phone and calls. (One other difference with this generation is that older people
answer the phone.) She calls with invitations and logistics. But invitations and logistics sometimes seem like an excuse to check in, and offer help or sympathy. When adult kids don’t call as often as they should (here I am, guiltily raising my hand), how lovely to have Syble checking on you every day.
5. Dress up for dinner (or lunch or cards)
When I see Syble out and about, she will be dressed in a fabulous outfit. This attribute isn’t unique to Syble but seems ingrained in most women of a certain age. Don’t pass up the opportunity to sport some smart clothing. Put on your pretty earrings or a scarf. Wear some snazzy shoes.
Do it for your friends. Do it for the event. Do it for yourself.
6. Nurture your girlfriends
I think when I’m 96, I might be tired. Syble has energy to spare, at least regarding her girlfriends. On my mom’s 91st birthday, 96-year-old Syble baked her a cake. When my mom had a brief hospital stay, Syble brought my dad King Ranch
Casserole. Now that my dad is battling Alzheimer’s, Syble often brings dinner to my parents.
I haven’t yet mentioned the No Host Lunch. I don’t know what “No Host Lunch” means, but it seems terrific. I believe Syble is the organizer (of course), but a different woman plans each month’s lunch. The one I attended in July was scheduled by Helen, another of my favorite gals.
The table was overflowing with red, white, and blue accessories, including a mechanical groundhog who sang Yankee Doodle Dandy. All the women wore sparkly patriotic clothing. And the grand finale was when Helen passed out song sheets, and we all sang “Grand Old Flag” and “America the Beautiful.”
Ladies, we need our girlfriends
I wrote that Syble had been a widow for almost 25 years. Syble and a group of beautiful widows go to dinner nearly every night. When I saw them recently, one of the women had lost her husband only a few weeks earlier. She was still grieving and teared up when I told her what a fine man he had been. I might be curled up in a blanket at home if I were her.
But this formidable group of women — some with walkers, hearing aids, or canes — wrapped their arms around her, swept her up, and got her out to dinner at the Catfish Corner. All dressed to the nines, of course.
It’s a sad fact that many of us gals will end up outliving our husbands. We’re going to need each other. And you know what? We need each other now, too. We need to play games together and go to Chicken Night together. We need to make each other King Ranch Casserole. We need to get dressed up, and maybe we even need to sing songs together. It’s not too early. And it’s never too late.
Let’s be like Syble.
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