I like old people, they have the best stories.

This is a reprint from April of 2010 from another blog of mine.  I am getting ready to go to a writers’ conference tomorrow and I’m pulling some posts to take with me.  I thought I’d share this story here.


The two younger girls and I spent time in the park today. We met a few of my 6 year old’s friends and their mothers at the park a couple of blocks from our home. One of the girls from my daughter’s class was brought by her neighbor: a quiet, demure, 80-something year old with thinning gray hair and a kind smile. I knew she didn’t know any of the other younger mothers, so I decided to spend some time talking with her while the other mothers chatted amongst themselves on the other side of the park.

I spent about an hour or so talking with her. In a short period of time, I learned that she was a neighbor of S, the sister of the elusive Bob – an old flame of mine. But while this connection was really interesting to me, what was more remarkable to me was the connections to other more prominent figures in my life. It turns out this woman knew my entire family…my grandparents, my mother and my step-father and some of his relatives too. She knew my mother since she was a little girl and both her family and mine moved from the city to the same suburban town.

She and my grandmother were both past presidents in their American Legion Auxiliary unit and and she got to know my grandfather on a personal level when he was instrumental in helping in an adoption case. The woman was formerly a banker and my grandfather was a lawyer. A prominent businessman and friend of hers in one of the suburban towns around where I grew up, came to her and asked if she wanted a baby. Literally. He said he was tired of his daughter getting pregnant while unmarried and the woman knew of a neighbor friend of hers that was trying to have a baby but couldn’t. So he was trying to find someone to give the baby to. She ended up calling up my grandfather to draw up the adoption papers and the papers to sign away the parental rights so the parents could never come back to claim the child. The child is now a senior in high school.

She even knew my real father, who had moved away from the area over 30 years ago. She didn’t know much about him, but she’s probably the only person outside of my family that knew him.

Anyway, all that is pretty interesting in itself…to me anyway. I love history, but personal history is even better.

What was more poignant to me was the fact that the woman felt compelled to talk about the two instances where she witnessed someone get a glimpse of heaven just before they died. Her mother was one of them. Less than a week before she died, she was setting out all her summer clothes on the couch. When questioned about it, she said, I’m going to give them away, I won’t be needing them anymore. It was spring time. Then a few hours before she died, she looked toward the window (it faced a garage) and said, “oh, I can see heaven…it’s so beautiful”…and her daughter (the woman I was talking to) said, “mom, why don’t you lay down…” and she laid her mom down…and her mom closed her eyes…and then never woke up again.  Six hours later, she passed away.

The other story the woman told was of her 14 year old niece, who was losing a 3 year battle with cancer. The girl was in bed, sat up and said, “I have to go pee” and so she got up and did, then she came back into the room and said, “is this my room? is this where I’m going to be…its so beautiful…” and not too much later died. I don’t really know how much later, because at that point, I was in tears. My youngest came to see me a few moments before I started crying because she was getting tired from playing hard, so as I’m listening, I’m hugging and kissing on my baby and crying even more. And then the woman starts crying too.

Ah…I don’t know. I’m sure these are just end of life hallucinations, right??? My own grandfather hallucinated that he saw St. Peter in the hospital room before he died, and he looked at my grandmother and said, “You’ll be there first” (but didn’t die until 4 years later). He also hallucinated that he saw a red snake in the couch in his home office, that very same week (he actually started tearing apart that couch looking for the red snake), so I really can’t be sure.

Or…maybe there is something to their visions. I can’t really say for sure.

At the end of the time at the park, this woman who was just a mere hour and a half prior a total stranger, we left each other feeling very close and hugging each other. She gave me her phone number so that I could invite her and her grandkids back to the park with us. If I do get a chance to see her again, I’m going to ask her if she remembers any more about my father.

When I got home, and I felt all fuzzy and warm. I called my mother to share my discovery, thinking my mom would have thought it was cool. My mother was much less than impressed and found my discovery to be…well…completely unimportant to her.

I forgot how my mother is. She kind of harshed my mellow. Drats.


About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
This entry was posted in Cancer, Death, Stories from My Life and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to I like old people, they have the best stories.

  1. Phil says:

    Simply remarkable how some of the most powerful moments in life often occur in ordinary situations with little or no expectation or forewarning. I think part of that, the unexpected delight, is what makes them so powerful.

  2. I absolutely agree, Phil.

    Someday, I’d like to make a collection of short stories, little vignettes of these gems I find along the path of my life. Actually, I should start doing that now…simply because the people I’ve met inspire me so much.

    Moments like these strike me as so powerful and profound. Sometimes I feel modern life has caused many of us to lose connections, and I must admit, I have become disconnected from my own family, out of a sense of protection of my privacy. They had been so enmeshed with each other in an unhealthy way that I needed distance.

    But what I find remarkable is that when I can hear the stories of my family through the perspective of outsiders who knew them, I get a distinctly different impression of them than the one I held as a child and young adult (and my family put the fun in dysfunctional). Through the eyes of the people they have impacted in positive ways, I see a different facet of their personality. Their public persona and private persona had been very different, but at least I can respect that they left a positive impact in the lives of others, even though they may have failed to do so with the members of their own family.

Would you like to share your thoughts? I'd love to hear them.

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