Once, a long time ago, I knew I was going to grow old gracefully. At 85 years of age, I am not so sure anymore.
If I could change the past, I wouldn't (except for maybe my bout with rheumatic fever). It is all part and parcel of who and what I am.
My first marriage gave me two wonderful daughters. As they were growing up, I worked as a switchboard operator and later as a long-distance operator, but there was never a moment in my life when the desire to sing was not knocking at my door.
Then one day, when I was about 32 years old (it was 1959 for anybody who's counting), I saw an ad in the local newspaper for a vocalist needed for a touring band. I decided to check it out. At least I would get an opinion from a professional on whether I could really sing.
The auditions were conducted by the band's drummer. I don't remember the name of the song that I sang, but I remember that he gave me the job without hesitation. This began my show-business career.
I was divorced by this time, so I made arrangements with my family to take care of my girls so I could I travel with the band. I've now been singing for more than 40 years.
Oh, and that drummer? His name was Ron Robertson. He and I fell in love that very first day and soon married. We had four children: three girls and a boy. That made six children altogether, and wow, what a ride.
We raised the children and played and sang whenever we could. After the kids were grown, Ron and I moved all over the country singing and playing whenever and wherever we could.
About seven years ago, Ron and I rolled into Ashland and got work performing as part of a three-piece jazz band at the Wild Goose Bar and Cafe. Three of our children reside here in the Rogue Valley, so that gig allowed us to have our cake and eat it, too. We loved playing at the Wild Goose and met so many wonderful, sweet people.
Then, as it sometimes does, even as it gave, life took something away. Ron passed on a year ago. I miss him so. He was a good man, a great drummer and the love of my life. I am lucky to have these memories.
Meanwhile, I still get to sing now and then. They have an open mic at Avalon Bar & Grill in Talent on Saturdays, and it is my home away from home. I like to believe the people still like it.
I also have written and published a poetry book since moving to Ashland, and I'm working on a second one. I do my own artwork, too. I have a memory condition called "dementia," but the kids and I — along with my wonderful caretakers — work together to battle it.
I have acquired a few wrinkles, a bit of arthritis and lost some teeth, but my children help me over any bumps that come along and we, the family, are all just fine.
Being 85 isn't all bad, believe me.