Mildred

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Mildred is a 94-year-old poet. She carries a deep wisdom, a quick sense of humor, a Katherine Hepburn sense of style, and the ability to unravel a story.

She can no longer write and she struggles with keeping her train of thought. Yet she can hold court like Dane Judy Dench.

I love Mildred. She’s a story-teller. Today she told me about when she was a little girl, riding her horse to school and about how her horse saved cattle from a raging river.

When she was 10 years old, her Father bought a farm sight unseen. The guy he bought it from said he would really like it. So the family traveled through the Iowa prairie on a winter day. Her Dad had gone ahead and lit all the stoves in the house. When Mildred, her mother and sister arrived, they found a large farm-house with five rooms. They went upstairs and there on the floor were thousands of dead bees. No one had lived in the old farm-house for years. Mildred and her Dad found the rope for the attic. They pulled the attic door down and found a zither! Immediately Mildred and her Dad sat down around the dead bees and started playing the zither. Her mother said, “I need to find the kitchen!”

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“Did you like your new home, Mildred?”

“Oh Honey, things went from bad to worse. The house was not insulated. There was no warmth in the house. One spring two tornadoes came through our backyard and two years later the Depression came and we lost the farm.”

As I sat and listened to Mildred unravel her story, tears came to my eyes. I knew I was on Holy Ground. Friends came around her and held her hands. Her 97-year-old friend Lavena who was dressed all in black with a gold and black jacket and her friend, Bethel, the young chick of 88, dressed in coral and gold sandals. These classy women with their stories of triumph and struggle. And I, half their age, seeing their beauty and respecting their journey. What stories will I remember? Who will listen?

Mildred gets frustrated when her brain won’t let her tell the stories she wants to tell.

“Mildred, dear, elegant story-teller, your stories are still alive even in your inability to retell them. They do not diminish. They are alive in your imagination.”

Music can be played, joy can be found, even among the carcases of dead bees. Just open the attic door.

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