One of my favorite people in the world passed away yesterday morning. She was our oldest friend, literally, in the sense that she was born in 1917. So she was 94, y'all. That hadn't stopped her from coming in to the Blue Moose for a drink, almost daily, for the past 7 years that I've known her!
Ok, well...given, she was only in her late 80's when I met her. But still...
Her name was Almeta Wilcher. When I first met her, she was a regular at the Blue Moose, driving around from one favorite hang out to another in her big, maroon sedan. She would show up at the Moose at about 3-ish each day, after she was done getting some food at Waid's down the street. She'd have whiskey sours, and tip the bartenders $1 each time they made her one. She would sit on a barstool next to the rest of our little group, and tell stories about her last cruise she was on, or what it was like the first time she saw the Pacific ocean.
She was repetetive after a while, but she was such a lovely person, it was hard for me to hold that against her, really. It was like a 20 year old was trapped inside that 80 year old's body, and it just wanted to keep on being one of the crowd!
We didn't mind. We'd listen to her stories, and try to help her with her crossword puzzles (she did them all the time...said it kept her mind young and helped her from going senile), and watch after her when she showed up late for another round.
These last couple of years, she was slowing down a bit. She had to move in with her daughter instead of continuing to live in her own home she'd shared with her husband for many years. Our friend Jim started driving her to and from the Moose for her daily visits, because she had finally gotten beyond the age where she was comfortable driving herself. I counted on seeing her every Saturday when we were in there, though, and over the last few months, she hadn't been in all that often when we were there.
I asked Jim if she was doing ok. And he said she was. And then last month, the bartenders told us that she'd been in and out of the hospital, and was living in an assistance home. So I got the address of the home from Jim, and planned to go and visit as soon as we could get out there.
Unfortunately, with the move, and then vacation, time got away from us. Just yesterday, I was thinking about how we really needed to find time this week to go see Almeta, and make sure she was comfortable and didn't need anything.
And then this morning, before I walked out the door to head to the gym, I saw the email one of the bartenders at the Moose had sent me. He was letting me know that Almeta passed away Sunday morning, in case I hadn't heard yet.
There's a part of me that is really, really sad that Almeta is gone. I wish she could tell me the story again about how she used to do Mrs. Russell Stover's hair each week back when she was a beautician in downtown Kansas City. And after her appointment each week, when Mrs. Russell Stover gave her her quarter tip, she would go out and grab a hotdog for lunch. It was her weekly treat to herself.
I wish she could show us the picture of her on Santa's lap on the one cruise she took during Christmastime a few years back. She was just so cute about her giddiness when it came to that photo!
I wish she could tell me again about how she and her friends tried to brew beer in her basement when she was 17, in Wellsville, KS. It didn't go so well, and one of the kegs blew up. Kinda ruined the whole keeping-it-a-secret-from-the-parents plan they had in place!
Almeta was basically awesome. She's what everyone might hope to be like when they get old and gray and a bit bent over in the shoulder. She always found something to compliment me on...she loved this one ratty old Gap sweater I used to wear a lot, because it was a knitted sweater, and she just thought it was so pretty on me! She loved my hair color. And the fun rings I would wear to the Moose.
She always had a lovely manicure on her hands. She kept her nails long, and she liked them red. And when she had a new jacket on, and we all noticed and complimented her on it, she hummed more to herself than usual in her happiness about it. (She was a hummer. It was cute, though, not annoying!)
I like to think that she's free now. That spirit was so young and so bubbly and so nice...and now she's free of the body that was holding her back from being able to truly be as social as she possibly could be. I can't help but wish that she'll find us in our new house, and drop by for a while. :) But I know that's just crazy talk.
Just the way Almeta liked it.