When I asked how long they had been friends, I was delighted by the answer — a little laugh and an almost imperceptible shrug. The memory of having not known each other seemed too hard to process. My best guess is they’ve been friends for over half a century, and more than half their lives.
Mary Ann is 90, and Jeanette is probably 95 (but she won’t tell).
My Grand Mary Ann grew up in the Roanoke Valley, a beautiful, quiet part of the country encompassed by the Blue Ridge Mountains. She married her husband of seventy years, Clarence, after he returned from the war. She was barely twenty.
Jeanette is from Brighton, England, and arrived in the States on a ship that voyaged across the Atlantic. It took a week.
The friends are an adorable duo, balancing each other out in the most brilliant ways. Mary Ann thinks only of others, and has nothing but kind words to say. Jeanette is a bit of a rascal, and though she’s very polite, she’ll also tell you exactly what she thinks.
Both women have lost their husbands, now live alone, and are learning how to create new lives at 90 years old.
One of the most difficult parts is doing it without the sense of sight.
Jeanette lost her vision two years ago when a serious case of shingles destroyed her optic nerves. She said the worst part is the inability to read. “It’s not the same” having someone else read to her, she told me.
What followed that admission was a sudden, bold recitation of English poetry — a few stanzas from Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott” (a poem Bonnie and I both love), and some words by A.A. Milne, the author of the Winnie the Pooh series.
These women are incredible examples of the fact that life is ever-changing, and the most you can do is be willing to change with it. And make the best of the days you’re given to live.
(My favorite parts are Mary Ann balking at the line “she has no loyal knight, the lady of Shalott” and Jeanette running through the entire poem again under her breath to remember the last line. The thumbnail for this video depicts their relationship so well. :)