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Sometimes the bite is worse than the bark

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It’s been a little over six years now since my friend Louise Morgan died. When we met 22 years ago, she was the age I will turn next month. Just a couple of adjectives which accurately describe Louise back then were “abrupt” and “cranky.” She had strong opinions which she offered unsolicited at times, however, on the occasion you dared asked for hers, you best be prepared to take what she dished out. Louise was brutally honest but encountering her during the middle age of my life, I thought she was brutally rude!

If you’re wondering why I’m writing about this person our readers don’t know, it’s because I passed her grave in College Station last week. I like to give Louise a shoutout, and that’s usually followed by memories of what I call my “other life” – life before my husband died.

Louise was one-of-akind, a card carrying member of the Greatest Generation. She drove into her late 80s, determined to continue her volunteer work at the Brazos Valley Rehabilitation Center despite the disease developing inside her body, and was 90 years old at the time of her passing. She had survived the Great Depression, multiple wars, buried two husbands - even caring for their parents after both spouses’ died. Cranky? Yes, but honorable beyond question to make that sacrifice.

My friend and co-worker, Carol Bienski, and I managed to find Louise’s last nerve on a daily basis. I will say Carol was more mindful of Louise’s age than I. It was my opinion that age didn’t give you a license to be rude so I did give it back to her sometimes. You could say Louise and I had an “understanding” but a bond formed after my husband died. Some things you just can’t understand until you go through them and suddenly I was privy to a soft side of Louise that we rarely saw except when she talked about her great-grandsons Jack and Theo.

As I navigate the aging process, I sometimes wonder how she managed to be as nice as she was because I’ve decided that getting old is like being trapped in the senior citizen version of the movie “Ground Hog Day.” Every day you wake and watch generation after generation make the same stupid mistakes over and over again, or worse, and nobody is remotely interested in your decades of experience forged in the fires of life. Yes, the mores of the culture change but there are basic life principles which are timeless and learning from others’ mistakes can eliminate pain.

But it’s all in your perspective. For instance, a few days after the attack on the World Trade Center, I commented that this was the worst event in our lifetime. To my surprise, Louise snapped back that the attack on Pearl Harbor was the worst! Back at my desk, I thought about it and conceded that for her, it probably was. She was only 16 and the earth was on the brink of destruction. Having experienced the worst, everything after that was just a Ground Hog Day rerun of the world repeating idiocy and greed. No wonder Louise’s favorite expression was “I don’t have time for fools!”

While a part of me wants to be Louise when I grow up, I do try to be less abrasive than she was but keeping my opinion to myself is getting harder to do. I’ve decided even if people aren’t interested in my septuagenarian wisdom, I lose nothing by speaking up. On the other hand, it takes only one person to recognize a pearl and glean something from it.

I’m always looking for quotes to elevate my ramblings and found this one, author unknown. I think it sums up this philosophy Louise and I share pretty well – “I speak my mind because it hurts to bite my tongue!”

The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Connie Clements. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.

Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and an award-winning columnist.