Saturday, May 29, 2010

Stories from Miss Shirley

Hustle and bustle, laughing blue eyes, flashing gold jewelry and capris:  that's Miss Shirley.  You have to be quick if you want to catch her--she's a moving target, always on the go.  Nine times out of ten, you will find her bending over in the garden, putting her green thumb to work, filling the compost box, adding a little something sparkly here or there to add interest, pizzazz, or plain old mystery to the haven in her backyard.

I have wanted to get to know this lady for years.  People talk in the neighbourhood about how she came to live here, about the tree in her front yard, about her gardens, her children, her grandchildren.  Well, people talk about anything, but in this case, there is a story to tell.  Actually, many stories.

Let's start with the one about how Miss Shirley and her husband Paul came to live in our neighbourhood.

Gallivanting on holiday in Florida 14 years ago,  Miss Shirley suddenly came face-to-face with Cancer.  It was a dismal situation which got terribly worse when a heart attack hit her the day before emergency surgery.  The handsome "Doctor Kildaire" in charge fought tooth and nail with the Ontario Health Insurance Plan to keep our heroine in his care until she could have her surgery, recover enough to begin chemo and safely travel home to Canada.  No small feat: OHIP does everything in its power to keep from paying for expensive, out-of-province health care.  They get defensive and downright nasty when challenged.

At home near Peterborough, Miss Shirley began the long struggle to recover and survive the modern plague.  Things were not going well.  The pre-existing Multiple Sclerosis became activated by the new drugs in her system.  She progressed from walking unassisted, to using canes, to languishing in a wheelchair.

-How are you doing, Mum?
-Just fine, thanks, the indomitable Miss Shirley would reply.

Miss Shirley's three little darlings had grown into strong young men, in business and raising families in Our Town.

-Mum, we want to see the whites of your eyes when we ask you how you are.  We picked out three houses in Our Town that we like and which we think you could be comfortable in.  Move!  Now!!

Shirley and Paul chose the delightful cottage in my neighbourhood, overlooking the Henley Pond.  This story has a happy ending, as most of Miss Shirley's stories do.  It's been 14 years with no recurrence of the disease.  Her MS abated over time and she is hot to trot, keeping Paul, her children and grandchildren on their toes. 

This week, I printed out a "business card" for myself and walked over to formally introduce myself.  Mr. Paul came out making sure it was a kosher visitor who had invaded the backyard sitting area, and then left us to it.   We talked for over 2 hors.  I took  notes.  I fell in love with this lovely woman of 80 years worth of stories to tell.  In the coming weeks, I will practice my story writing by relating Miss Shirley Stories.  Stay tuned for The Ladybug Story, The Tree Story, The Mirror in the Wall Story, and others.  You too will want to meet this laughing dynamo of a woman.  She's one in a million.

What interesting people live around your neighbourhood?  Are you brave/silly enough to go and meet them?


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