On her 95th birthday, my fiance introduced me to his grandmother, Gladys Attwood. Her eyes twinkled, as I pulled up a chair to sit beside her, just as one of her three daughters prepared a video for us all to enjoy. Helen explained that the video was a compilation of the three television commercials that Gladys starred in the year before for a local car wash. Larry Dahl, owner of the Wash n’ Well Car Wash had telephoned the minimal care facility where Gladys resided to see if there was a “spunky old lady” there with the charisma to pull off what he had in mind.
Marge Siegfried, co-manager at the Royal Oaks Retirement Home, didn’t think twice. They had “just the right person!” “Just give me the works, Sonny!” she’d say as she pulled up to the attendant. Out of the car, she’d race around with her cane (the film was accelerated), kicking the tires, and tapping attendants, as they scrubbed and buffed and shined. At the end she’d exclaim, “Well, I sure gave those boys the works!” and she’d smile and wink, the wink that won her recognition all over the town of Medford, Oregon. How she laughed when the video was over!
Once the crowd of family members around us thinned, and the flood of compliments slowed, I found myself listening intently to Gladys. A breast cancer survivor, she was active in the American Cancer Society’s local cancer support group. “You know the young people that have had cancer if they can see that you can have it and live to be 95, it does something for them,” she said.
Our conversation continued, and soon she shared her thoughts on the latest happenings in politics and world affairs. I was taken aback with the acute sharpness of this former champion college basketball player and teacher’s mind whose knowledge and complex thought processes of current affairs put me to shame. It wasn’t long before I was left far behind in awe.
Partly in an effort to save myself and partly because I was so amazed, I asked, “Tell me, Grandma, however, did you manage to grow so old yet stay so young?”
Gladys leaned her warm, wrinkled face in closer to mine, her gray eyes shining behind her metal-framed glasses. “I’ll tell you, Diane. A long time ago, a nurse told me that if you laugh a lot, you live longer, so…I laugh a lot…and my four boyfriends keep me going!”
“Your four boyfriends?!?!” I exclaimed.
“Haven’t I told you? Well…every morning I get up with Will Power. Then I go for a walk with Arthur Itis. I come home with Charlie Horse. Then I go to bed with my favorite…Ben Gay.”
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