I pulled into Patsy's driveway, yesterday. It was a burning day, above 100. And at noon, you could've fried a rock. But the driveway was shaded by a desert willow and neighboring sweet sycamore, so there was respite while I walked up to her front door. The door was swinging open before I made it to the knob. Patsy was ready.
"I can't stand being late. And I hate dirty cars. I cleaned off my car this morning until my feet got too hot," she stated firmly.
In the year I've known Patsy I've never heard her complain, once. She says things as they ought to be said, all the time. And that's a very comfortable person to be with.
One time in her front room she was showing me her family pictures on the wall. "Isn't this great?" she asked, in a way that was more of a confirmation than a question. "My grandson, right here," she said pointing to a specific portrait, "once asked why he wasn't on the wall. Well, I said, 'Did you serve a mission? Did you graduate high school? Did you get your Eagle Scout? Then there you go.'"
In the year I've known Patsy I've also never seen someone love family or friends more. She lives for her family. "In 60 years of family reunions, I've missed only 5. One of those my husband died right before. When I get back to heaven I'm going to get after him for that one?"Patsy spends any downtime in a conversation talking about her family. Family is the energy that keeps her heart beating. At times she simply breaks down while talking about her family. But she weeps for only 10 seconds before she's right back at it, telling it how it is.
"I'm a boob, and so is my sister. Have been all my life. After my stroke in 2006 they tried to put me on one of those pills for depression. I took one and couldn't stand it. I said, 'Here, take your pills back I don't want any of that.'" And that was Patsy's brief exposure to antidepressants.
"But I never cried when my husband died. Eileen, my good friend, asked at church, 'Patsy I can't believe you, how are you not crying?' Well, I knew God was watching over me. Six months later Eileen's husband died. Then she believed me."
Well, yesterday we hopped in her black Nissan Altima so I could drive her to the cardiologist and chiropractor. She quit driving last September. At 97, that was probably a good time to quit. Patsy is quite nearly see-through, her collagen is so thin and stretched. But she's like the hammer in your shed that keeps on pounding even though the wood around it is all decayed. And she hits the nail on the head every time in all she does.
You see, she's had a lot of practice pounding away at life. Her husband died while she was young, leaving her with five kids to raise. And she raised them all by herself, never remarrying. She worked two jobs. "My kids never knew boredom. If they ever told me they were bored, I put them right to work. And one thing I learned early, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. And join she did. Her kids have been paying her back for her love in these later years. Just the day before yesterday her oldest son took her out to lunch for mother's day. She spent the lunch telling her son why his son, her grandson, didn't come to talk to her at a wedding reception last week. "I hate that he didn't come talk to me, in his nice suit and standing on the other side of the reception hall all night. I can't stand that." Again, Patsy doesn't complain, she just knows what's right and wrong. And she's a missionary of right and wrong.
But there is a streak of evil in Patsy that came to light as we pulled onto River Road towards Northwest Hospital. I mentioned how the Rillito River used to run when the Mormons were the only ones farming the land with the Indians. And now with all the people we've dropped the water table so the river is a wash 364.8 days of the year. And that got Patsy reminiscing. And one of the things she remembered back in her day was goat's milk.
"Have you ever tried it?"
"Nope." I said.
"Well you should, it's good. One time I brought over my best friend. She said she doesn't like goat's milk. So I put out two glasses of milk and told her one was goat's milk and she was to try them both to see which she liked. Well she loved the other one. But they were both goat's milk. I tricked her."
Patsy disclosed her trickery with a straight face. I laughed.
We pulled into the hospital parking lot and scored the sweetest spot, right next to the entrance. I have beef with handicap tags but when you have one you feel like royalty. I parked the car, turned it off and told Patsy to wait while I ran around to open her door and lift her out. Well I'm a skinny knuckle so when she first pulled up I came right into the passenger door on her lap. I made a mental note right then to get my LA Fitness membership that night. If anyone saw a 97 year old lady take me down I'd never get over it, I thought. But I'm over it, because the cardiologist said Patsy is the strongest woman he has ever seen. He saw her all of ten minutes and she was out the door before I could even get into David McCullough's Truman biography.
Perfect bill of health, with a blood pressure average sitting around 130/80.
Patsy grabbed my arm and smiled as we walked to make her next appointment. She makes annual visits to her cardiologist. 97 years old. Annual visits. Unreal.
Our next stop was her second cousin. "Kissing cousins" she called it. He is a chiropractor. We pulled up to his office and their he was, the Doctor, out sweeping the front of his office in long-sleeve shirt, tie and slacks. In 100 degree weather! Having never seen a physician sweep his own office porch, I felt like I was back in the '40's. And the inside was decorated to match, with Normal Rockwell paintings all over and wallpaper trim up high on the walls, you know, the flowery type that makes it look like Grandma's house. And there was Grandma, sitting at the reception desk! It was a great office. And Patsy was the only patient, so she received prompt treatment. I'm still neutral when it comes to how I view the effectiveness of a chiropractor. Glorified massage is where I tend to think the practice calls home.
But the visit was nice, Patsy gave hugs to everyone, happy her shoulder felt better, which she swears it does, and we headed out to the car for our drive home. On the way home Patsy told me more stories. And in between stories she handed out gems of life. If I live by these gems, I know I'll live a good life like her. She's a person who you can't help but feel better about yourself for being around her. She walks and talks in a way that just makes you want to give the world a hug, at least the ones who deserve it, and to beat the lazy ones with a stick until they start working to deserve a hug.
We pulled into the driveway and Patsy had one more request.
"Come in and help me get the lid off my ice cream."
Back in the car again, headed home.