”What keeps me going?” you might ask. You didn’t ask, but I will answer the question anyway. Remarkable young people in my life keep me going, especially the ones who are devoted and attentive to me. On days when I feel less excited and less hopeful about my life, a call, e-mail, or promise of a visit from one of these youngsters will turn my mood from dismal to bright. I am frankly flattered to think they enjoy my company.
My grandchildren are not children. They are grown men and women. Andrew, a federal prosecutor, visits and drives me in my car to some spring. Then we attend a jazz concert. Entrepreneur Stephen visits and entertains me with his drone camera and talk of trading bitcoins and other cryptocurrency. Emily, a social worker and counselor working with teenagers, hikes in Maine and sends me photos of moss emerging from snow. Alex, as an editor and technical writer is a really useful family member. A younger grandchild, Anna Rose, who changed her name to Max, is entering Frostburg State University in Maryland and is aiming toward an MBA while leading the LGBT community. I am proud and impressed by all of them.
In addition to my grandchildren, there are other young relatives I feel close to, though not geographically. In Tennessee, there is niece, Dotty, who drives down from Nashville and takes me “picking” for antiques. Also in Tennessee, there is nephew, Martin, who shares his love of writing. My Tennessee cousins, Betty and Gray Settle, publish many of my stories in our Sexton reunion newsletter. In Kansas and Georgia, there are my husband’s nieces and a nephew who stay in touch and call me their Dear Aunt Pattie.
Nearby, in Ocala, Florida, there is Julie, who I refer to as “my other daughter.” She grew up playing with my baby daughter, Clea, and fifty years later is a dear and valued woman friend. There is Brad, my best buddy, handyman, and computer geek, who moved from Florida to South Carolina, but stays in touch and sometimes visits. He is the son of my former next door neighbors. Varian, a former starving artist who worked for me around my house and yard, became a friend and art gallery manager, and still sends words of encouragement.
From Hangzhou, China, WenXia and Peng stay in touch with me via WeChat. During Peng’s year as a visiting scholar at the University of Florida, he and WenXia came to my house every Saturday for conversational English. They became like part of my family and we hope for their return to America. Their bedding is stored in my guest room awaiting that day. Via WeChat, their six-year-old daughter, Cici, calls me Grandma Pattie, sings and reads to me in English, dances for me, and shows me her toys and new clothes. She is a bright light in my life as is her ten-year-old friend, Gina, who gifted me wonderful art work during her Dad’s time as a visiting scholar from China. I am inspired by all of them, their intelligence, and eagerness to understand our country.
This piece is not complete without mentioning, Ellen, soon to be officially my granddaughter-in-law. Ellen has visited me along with husband-to-be, Andrew, and has already established her place in the Macurdy family. Ellen is a capable and beautiful Harvard law graduate and more importantly, says nice things about my writing. She even corralled her mother into being a fan of my writing. How could I not love her!
After communicating with any one of these people, I feel inspired to stand straighter, walk more laps, eat only food from plants, stay better hydrated, make sure my life is interesting, and try harder to be productive. All these young people appreciate and encourage my writing, a sure way to keep me at it. They have convinced me of their sincerity. Consequently, I will do anything for them, including come up with more stories.
So, I have answered the question which nobody asked, “What keeps me going?” The question looms especially large on days when I seem to do nothing more than keep myself fed and diapered, same as a newborn baby, except a baby has more future ahead.
My point is the young people in my life keep me going. They are out there kicking butt every day, taking time now and then to toss approval and encouragement my way. They are my inspiration. Thanks, young friends, for providing me the reason to never waste a day!
In closing, here is your Grandma Pattie’s wisdom of the day: Take care of our planet, and what’s left of our democratic government. I worry about our country, the human race, your future, and my great-grandchildren’s future. Become the wise and decent leaders we so desperately need. Get involved, pass some stricter gun laws, and run a country that makes us feel proud again. You can do it!
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi and Pattie Macurdy