Recently I was asked by a friend of mine if I'd mind escorting her widowed aunt to a special presentation of the local ballet company. I had met Sheila only on one prior occasion some years before, and remembered her as affable but couldn't quite remember what she looked like. Anyway, I told my friend I'd be delighted and called Sheila to ask if she'd like me to pick her up, but she said, no, she'd rather drive herself and would meet me at the theatre entrance.
When I got there I looked around, scanning the crowd for my friend's aunt Sheila.The only woman I could see standing alone and obviously waiting for someone was a rather chic looking lady fashionably dressed in black with a large red rose pinned to her lapel.
I approached her carefully. "Sheila?"
She gave me a lovely smile and held out her hand. "You must be Jim. Thanks you so much for agreeing to spend time with an old broad!"
She looked so elegant in her black brocaded coat and matching skirt, her hair beautifully coiffed, that I found myself wishing I'd dressed accordingly - not in a coat and skirt - but in something a bit smarter than my beige slacks and blue polo.
As we walked inside she took my arm and I could actually feel the eyes of many people upon us. I handed over the tickets and we went to the bar for a glass of wine. We stood chatting before the show and Sheila told me of her life in dance when she was a young girl.
"I always wanted to be a prima ballerina," she said wistfully, "but had to settle for being a Vegas showgirl."
I could tell there were many stories hiding behind her twinkling blue eyes, and I recalled that my friend had told me her aunt had been 'quite the free spirit' in her youth.
Just as we were about to mount the stairs to take our seats a young girl walked up to us and put her hand on Sheila's arm. "I just want to tell you that you are so beautiful," the girl said.
"Why, thank you," Sheila said, with a smile, and I intuited by the way she accepted the compliment that this was not an unusual occurrence for her. I imagined that Sheila had been told she was beautiful by many men and women during her life, and even now despite the tell tale lines around her eyes and mouth, she still looked stunning.
She squeezed my arm and whispered, "Not bad for seventy-four, eh?"
After the show we went for a late supper and once again I could feel the stares of the other patrons as Sheila vivaciously regaled me with hilarious tales of her life upon the 'wicked stage'.
I was quite sorry to have the evening end, but Sheila insisted she had to have her beauty sleep. I escorted her to her car, she kissed my cheek then slid onto the driver's seat with a dancer's elegance.
It was one of the most memorable evenings of my life, and something I hope to repeat often in the years to come.
As Mark Twain said, 'Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter'.
I think that is the creed by which Sheila has lived her life - and it shows