Friday, December 5, 2008

The Grand Charlotte

Charlotte is 94 years old today. I saw her yesterday in the nursing home and forgot to say Happy Birthday Charlotte. So ... Happy Birthday Charlotte.
Yesterday Charlotte said something extraordinary to me. In talking about a friend who lives in the retirement community where Charlotte lives and to which she hopes to return after her post-surgical recuperating time in the nursing home, she told me that her friend had "pretty much given up," then added, "You know you just can't do that, give up like that. It ruins everyone else's life."
Today most of us think that "giving up" would ruin our own quality of life, but Charlotte in her famously blunt, matter-of-fact way is quite firm that such an attitude would ruin every else's life. How grand is that! How holy is that in a world gone so crazy with self-interest that it can't see its own worth and beauty let alone that of anyone else.
It's not that Charlotte has had a rose garden life, and it's not that her friend is older and in worse shape than Charlotte so we might justify her giving up. I don't know how people turn out like Charlotte. The usual rationales don't work. You know the ones like growing up all loved, having had advantages in life, one solid mutually loving, death-do-us-part marriage, successful kids, plenty of money, basic good health, on and on. Some of these things Charlotte has had and some not.
And, BTW ( that means "by the way" in email-ese) Charlotte's not one who slathers pink icing all over everything. Her patience isn't sterling; she mostly blurts out what's on her mind, political correctness be damned; she has physical limitations, cancer, tempers and moods, a gruff voice and a sharp wit you wouldn't call corny or sweet. There are days she feels like giving up too. But she doesn't—for your sake and mine.
I pray I can age with as much grace.