For Northern Michigan newbies, a visit to Barbara May’s uber cool handbag shop north of Petoskey is a must. Recently, I took friend Jeanne Schupan, from Kalamazoo, to B. May. (For more, see post: Marc Schupan’s grief over his son leads him to write letters and tell the story)
Jeanne fell in love with a bag and bought it. (She has a long way to go to catch up with moi.) On our way out, Jeanne noticed a skin she preferred. Lingering a few minutes to make the exchange, we were still there when a vivacious blonde walked in.
Jeanne looked at her and said, “Linda?”
She said, “Jeanne?” This was followed by squeals and OMGs and hugs. Turns out they both come from Pigeon, MI, pop. 1000, in Michigan’s Thumb. They both graduated from Laker High School. They hadn’t seen each other in over 20 years.
You know something’s a Godsign when you say, “What are the chances?”
Seeing these two had much to discuss, I invited Linda Johnson to join us for lunch. Which led to dinner with our husbands as well. I learned Linda was a licensed mental health professional (M.A., L.L.P.C.) and life coach.
And she’d written a book called: Chapter 3, Stories of inspiration, life lessons and good things to know… for wherever your next chapter begins. The book is smart and insightful. Linda tells different peoples’ stories and life lessons to be learned from them. An especially sweet story focuses on Linda’s husband Dave’s parents, who raised 2 sons, were married 75 years, and were in their mid 90s.
Linda writes: “After all those years together, Jane and Lew had their routine. It consisted of morning coffee. Breakfast. Lew reading the newspaper. Jane working the crossword puzzle. A walk. Then errands. Together. Maybe a round of golf. Lunch. An afternoon nap. And just like clockwork, a 5 o’clock glass of wine. They used to call it their ‘fix.’
“Eventually their remarkably good health gave way to old age. In their older years, Jane developed macular degeneration and was legally blind. Lew’s vision was compromised by cataracts. They had one good ear between the two of them and even that one wasn’t very good. Their bones became brittle. They walked a little slower, stood not quite as tall, had some bad falls.”
Linda and Dave often took Jane and Lew out to dinner. One night, when they drove them home, Linda and Dave got out of the car to walk his parents to the door. “We were told—in no uncertain terms—that they could manage just fine on their own. Thank you very much. I think they were insulted.”
The couple sat in the car and watched while Dave’s parents climbed the stairs to their 2nd floor condominium. There was an elevator. But, as Linda tells it, “to quote my in-laws, ‘that’s for old people.’ Ninety years and change didn’t qualify as old in their opinion.”
Linda and Dave watched his parents at their front door. They waited for Lew to find his keys. Neither parent could see or hear well. They didn’t realize Lew was also suffering from dementia. Lew fumbled with the keys, tried one after another. Then Jane tried, twice. No luck.
Linda writes, “Just as we were about to go to them, Dave and I watched Jane and Lew do the craziest thing: they doubled over—with laughter! The hanging-on-to-each-other, laughing-so-hard-you’re-crying kind of laughter! Then a hug. Followed by the door finally being unlocked. They went inside still laughing and didn’t give us a second glance.”
Within a year, Jane was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died. Lew’s dementia worsened. He couldn’t understand why his partner of more than 75 years wasn’t with him. He died soon after.
The life lesson Linda draws from that night with her in-laws was suggested by Linda’s daughter, Julie, in a letter to her grandparents during their last years. She called them “a living example that attitude in life is everything.”
Their attitude, Linda says, is “why everyone loved Jane and Lew. It’s why they looked forward to every day. It’s why everyone else was ‘old’ because in their minds they stayed perpetually young.”
Now, nearly 10 years after watching her elderly in-laws cope with a trivial but exasperating incident, Linda chooses to remember them in that moment. “The moment when I realized in spite of all their challenges, they found humor where most of us would find frustration.”
Some memories are too painful to escape. Other times, we can choose the memories we hang on to, curate them for our memory museums. Treasure them.
Thanks, Jane and Lew, wherever you are, for the inspiration. And thanks, Linda, for the valuable lesson. I know others will enjoy Chapter 3 as much as I have.
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