Saturday, February 14, 2015

What do you need? A Nonagenarian's Perspective (referencing Patti Labelle's "Egg Sandwich" story)


You wanna eat a slice of humble pie? Just ask a nonagenarian (a person aged 90+ years) what they need.

Last week, I attended the birthday party of a 98 year old neighbor I have known all of my life. Always impeccably dressed, he arrived at the party clad in a neat jacket, crisp shirt, and perfect gentlemanly hat (removed to don this wonderful birthday hat)!

For years, we have talked about what he needs when it comes to clothing.  He is quite particular about what he wears.  The answer usually ends up as some version of "nothing really".  His best clothes are beautifully maintained, old, classic items of excellent quality. 

"I want a big t-shirt with a belt.  White.  Yes, open front with a belt, so I can wear it like a robe. Easy to wash.  To care for.  I've tried a million different things.  That's all I want."

I've never made it for him, despite the fact that I can do exactly that. Easily. Nothing fancy.  If I buy two enormous white t-shirts, I've got enough fabric to do it.  What could be easier?  I've always looked for the complicated route, the "designer's" version... "Well, you must mean..." I always interjected.

No, I know exactly what he means.  Why don't I just do EXACTLY that?

At the party, a group of neighbors and I sat and talked about all sorts of things. Another nonagenarian told the story of the boxed lunch he ate while sitting with his feet dangling in the water at the March on Washington in DC long ago.  We heard about the temperature of the water and weather that day, what it felt like to shake hands with Dr. Martin Luther King, A. Phillip Randolph, and other leaders, how close he was to those men... pointing at the kitchen sink, "I was about as far from them as you are from that sink."  We heard about the old remedies and preventions for cold and flu from their childhoods nearly a century ago (and I'm certain they are really the perfect remedies).  He also told the story of his close relative, 115 years old when my neighbor himself was a child. He had been a slave, and measured distances in "days' march".  The birthday boy told stories of growing up in the West Indies, and how elderly people treated incontinence by simply drinking vinegar.

We ended the night with a beautiful comment from the birthday boy (inspired by the Charlie Hebdo situation)...

If there's one thing I know, from all my years of life so far, it is that peace and love are the same thing.  
One CANNOT exist without the other.
So we enjoyed one another's company, laughed, talked and ate heartily, and had lots of helpings of cake and ice cream, then laughed some more, and saw the birthday boy safely to his home across the street...

This is a story that ran the risk of becoming much like Patti Labelle's Egg Sandwich story, but this one has a happy ending.  That white robe? I can do it today.  I am finishing this post and going to the store for the t-shirts, so I can just make it today.  No frills.

Things like don't just hear/wear/use them, you feel them, and you experience them.  It is worth every ounce of effort I can expend.


After making the robe, I received a beautiful thank you note, with his  own original artwork, and a beautiful poem he wrote:

Original artwork from my 98 year old friend!

I took pictures of the robe, but it really looks like a T-shirt robe... so simple that it doesn't mean a thing to anyone but the recipient, who INSISTS it should be "mass produced", no matter how many times I explain that this a unique piece, made just for him!
Wanna read some more?

Maybe you like stories with a bit of history tossed in?
Maybe you wanna know what a different age demographic has to say?
Maybe you wanna hear another story told from the heart?

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