My New Friend Marnie!

After years of hearing about Marnie, I finally went to pay her a holiday visit yesterday.  Marnie is my friend Grace’s 100 year-old mother.  Marnie lives at the very beautiful University House where she has her own spacious light-filled apartment.  I can’t express exactly how happy I am and how blessed I feel to have Marnie as my new friend and role model!

Marnie celebrating her 100th birthday with her great grandchildren last summer

Marnie celebrating her 100th birthday with her great grandchildren last summer

I promised I would be at Marnie’s at 3:30 pm, early enough so that she could visit with me and later join her friends in time for dinner at 5 pm.  I taught three classes in the morning, was rushing around all day, so I didn’t have time to buy a gift for Marnie as I had planned.  My wise Aunt Sisina’s words kept coming to mind, bits of wisdom she shared with me as I was about to visit my 93 year-old aunt in September, “When you visit Zia Maria, be sure to bring her a gift, even if it is something small.  The older we get, the more we cherish these little gifts.  Perhaps we become more childlike in our Golden Years?   I don’t know really, but what I do know is that little thoughtful gifts for our elders can carry a smile for days.”

I was in a bit of a panic when I stopped at Walgreens, which is half way down the block from University House.  Perhaps Walgreens carried poinsettias?  No such luck!  I was kicking myself because, after all, Walgreens is a type of pharmacy! What was I doing there? How do you find a gift in a pharmacy for a 100 year-old-woman whom you have never met before?  How do I get myself into these predicaments? Perhaps I could find a Christmas decoration or an ornament?  As I was looking around, fretting, a very bubbly heavily made-up woman wearing thick glittery eyeliner came up to me.  “Hi!  My name’s Toni.  That’s short for Tonya.  I work in the Cosmetics Department.  Can I help you with anything?”  I must have looked desperate!

I explained to Toni that I would like to buy a gift for a special friend whom I had yet to meet, a friend who is 100 years old!  Toni’s face broke into an enormous smile, “Marnie?  Is your friend Marnie???”

“You know Marnie?”

“Yes, we just love Marnie!  She comes in here a lot.  She walks over.  Hey, let me show you what she likes!  I know EXACTLY what you should get her!”

Toni, the heavily-made-up-angel  (angels come in all forms, shapes, and sizes and they appear when you most need them!), brought me over to the Wine Department and showed me Marnie’s favorite chardonnay!  So I ended up buying white wine and chocolates, urged by this woman who knows Marnie, all the while wondering if this was an appropriate gift for my friend Grace’s 100 year-old mother!

A few minutes later, I was at Marnie’s and I was miraculously ON TIME (thanks to my Walgreens Angel!).  Marnie was sitting near the door, waiting for me.  She is even more charming than I had imagined.  Without asking about her secrets to longevity, I figured it all out.  Marnie is very social, has many friends and knows all their names and shared details about her friends.  She reads and is in a book club.  She keeps her mind sharp.  She is currently reading Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea for her next bookclub meeting.  She reads the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers daily and stays current in world affairs.  She makes most of her own meals, but likes to join her friends for dinner in the dining hall in the evenings.  She played tennis for years and now does a gentle chair yoga class a few times a week with a group of 10 friends.

Marnie gave birth to and raised eight children!! She had a large family by choice!  She explained that she was an only child and very very lonely growing up as a single child.  When her husband proposed to her, she said, “Well, you should know that I want a very large family!  I grew up as a single child and I want to have lots of children!”  Her life is rich with family. We sat in her living room and she colored the gray Seattle winter afternoon with her animated stories.

I think I fell in love with Marnie long before I met her, but my love for her became a sealed-deal long before we parted ways yesterday.  If you have plans to visit someone special for the holidays, do it!  Don’t wait.  And enjoy every moment of the visit.

 She is at her favorite place in the world, our summer house on Lake Michigan that her mother bought in 1920. She hasn't missed a summer during that entire time!

Marnie (with her daughter Grace) at her favorite place in the world: Marnie’s summer house on Lake Michigan that Marnie’s mother bought in 1920. Marnie hasn’t missed spending a single summer there since 1920!


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7 Responses to “My New Friend Marnie!”

  1. Esta dejong Says:

    I always loved older people. They have a wizdom and sass that is missing in the ‘younger generation”. She sounds like my kind of lady.


  2. marykay Says:

    “she colored the gray Seattle afternoon with her animated stories” your writing bringing life to tender, touching times!


  3. Bev Says:

    Ditto both of the above comments. Your writing is fabulous, Fran. Marnie reminds me of my friend, Frances, who just passed away Dec 2 at age 102 and 7 months to the day. Frances, too, lived by herself in senior housing. Although she was blind, she cooked her own meals every day. She “watched” TV every day keeping up with current events and “watching” golf whenever it was on. She loved to play golf when she was younger. Frances loved to make chocolate chip cookies for herself and those who came to visit her (She had more friends and relatives than anyone else I know.) And, best of all, Frances, kept her most positive attitude towards life. I will miss her very much. It’s so wonderful that you have found Marnie and can now enjoy happy times with her. Thank you for sharing this story. Happy Holidays.


    • frangallo Says:

      Hi Bev, I am sorry to hear of Frances’ passing. I know you spoke so fondly of her and you two were so lucky to have each others’ special friendship. People like Frances teach us HOW to live. They are our gurus, in a sense. Happy Holidays!


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