Verda May Jones. She sat in the old, mustard tweed rocking chair with a Nancy Drew book on her lap. I had surprised her with a visit. She put the book down and lit up her eyes with a smile. In her usual style she giggled a couple times, started to say something and stopped, and then launched into a big, genuine, "Well, how are you?"
Verda was born five years before 1920 rolled around. She experienced both world wars, the death of her twin sister (Veda Fay) at age 14, motherhood, grandmotherhood, great-grandmotherhood, great-great grandmotherhood, and could sew a dress up like nobody's business. Verda was one of my favorite friends. She lived right down the road from me at a retirement home she didn't particularly love but had chosen to delight in. She lit that place up. Her fervor for life and quick wit were unmatched. People loved her. I loved her.
That particular fall day found her sitting quietly with one of her Nancy Drew books. We both loved Nancy Drew. I spent my 9th and 10th year reading them straight through; she spent her 93rd and 94th doing the same. I swear, Verda and I were two best friends four generations apart. It didn't take long before we were again going over her years past-- she talking, I listening.
There were about 20 eligible young men to choose from in her small East Texas town. (With the wide world of Facebook and cheap transportation, our modern dating options have busted wide open. The sky is the limit and maybe that's a bad thing. But, that's another post for another time.) Some evenings when the weather was nice, all the guys and girls would get together and take turns splitting up in pairs to walk down the lane and back. They would talk and flirt and laugh the evening away. She courted a few of them before she fell in love with her husband Loyd. He was a little bit older, but captured her heart and gave her three beloved babies throughout their sweet years of marriage.
When Sam and I were dating, I decided to move to Austria for a year. I explained my new European venture to Verda before leaving amid promises of post cards and letters, and with a twinkle in her eye she responded, "Well you had better not stay over there too long if you want that man to marry. They don't wait around forever." Just like that. Matter of fact, all her words. There was no worry or pretense in them--ever. She knew the ebbs and flows of life and was content to sit back and watch how they played out. Verda was a breath of sweet air for this breathless and always hurried young heart. When I was with her my soul could decompress. Listening to Verda was like opening the windows in an old, damp attic to let in the dewy springtime breeze. Her soft, rustling words would blow in and whisper "LIFE" in the most unassuming way. We sat and played Skip-Bo for a couple hours together--she talking, I listening.
We need more Verdas in the world, but I'm afraid she was simply too one of a kind. Tonight I am thankful for white haired wisdom and women who can laugh with no fear of the future.
welcome Audrey DeFord is an artist, illustrator, wife, momma, believer. But not in that order. She currently resides in Texas with her husband Sam, baby girl Flora, French bully Shortstack, & 12