Archive for Thursday, November 17, 2005

Coffee group provides grounding

November 17, 2005

One of the best things about being semi-retired is you find a coffee group (if you're lucky) of like-minded individuals who are no longer working or are also semi-retired.

Hanging around a Lawrence bakery for many years during the 26 years I worked in Lawrence came to be a pleasant pastime. Stopping each morning for coffee and a doughnut before work left little time to socialize, but when retirement came, many mornings found me reading my paper and watching others reading their papers. Eventually casual conversations arose among the regulars and with the interest of a lovely lady I refer to as the "Pearl Mesta of Munchers" a group was formed that have since become good friends.

Arguing politics or discussing the news in Lawrence (as well as Eudora), trading books, newspaper articles and movies and enjoying dinner occasionally, coming to know these individuals and belonging to this group has become one of my greatest pleasures.

Never one to be timid about sharing opinions has placed me in a vulnerable position as I visit with members of our group. The group is composed of former teachers, businessmen and women, a pharmacist, a retired school principal, a CPA, a librarian, and university professors, one of whom was also a former vice chancellor at Kansas University. With no such impressive credentials and only my own brash opinions to offer, the group has been most welcoming and respectful. (I particularly enjoyed making the group laugh when I related how when I am irritable I can feel my hair grow.) Finding myself in such prestigious company has been intimidating at times, but age is the great leveler.

It is as my mom used to say, "We're all in the same boat" -- some of us going a little faster than others.

Age however is not a requirement. Our group also includes a young man (Mr. Mom) and his son, about 15 months old, who has been officially named the "Muncher Baby."

Sharing family histories and stories as well as troubled times and good has led to a bond that is strong and supportive.

Stop by some morning and you will be included (no one is excluded) -- and as an FYI Tuesday and Thursday are "therapy days" in case you are interested.

  • Another good friend, my mentor and confidante, Sister Irene McGrath, who has been a member of the Sisters of Charity community for more than 50 years, was involved in a car accident recently.

Never one to be discouraged, it was a surprise to hear tears in her voice as I spoke with her on the phone a few days ago.

Always upbeat and ready for an adventure, it is difficult now to see that intensity and passion dimmed. A victim of osteoporosis, she has suffered many painful injuries in the past but has always been able to overcome and return to her duties -- even flying to various states where she conducts seminars on aging.

A farm girl from a small town in northwest Kansas, sister came to the convent at the early age of 14, and she has spent most of these 50 years in service to others as teacher, school principal and parish minister.

Most recently she was the main force in organizing a non-denominational women's group called Martha & Mary's Way in Lawrence.

She was with us on our trip to Italy several years ago and in spite of a knee injury kept up with the group. Always one to enjoy a good time, she said once when she and a group of friends were making trips to churches in the state that the next trip should be one where "we just go for fun." On St. Patrick's Day this past year and after the yearly parade, she was ready for a glass of beer and for the dancing to begin.

She has been an emotional support for me through the years, and she is on my list of women in my life that I most admire. As I told her when she apologized for shedding tears on the phone, she was the one who taught me that tears were a gift and one to treasure.

Now it's my turn to return to her some of her wisdom she so generously shared with me through the years. I lit a candle for you today, Sister -- a big one. God bless.

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