Friday, August 3, 2007

My Favorite and Only 99 Year Old Friend

Wow! Great Great Grandma Inez just celebrated her 99th birthday. She has 5 generations all around her and stands about 4ft. 9 inches of beauty. In this era of botox and plastic surgery, her wrinkles are her loveliness and her mind is 100% clear. She enjoys Janet and my visits and when she hugs us, she holds on and doesn’t let go.

While seniors in the USA live in retirement communities, assisted living and nursing homes, Inez lives in the same neighborhood where she grew up in downtown San Ramon. Women are the glue in Costa Rican culture with Mommies the stars, Inez is a matriarch for the ages. She told me she has 6 children, 22 grandchildren, 45 great grandchildren and 2 great great grandkids. The childless 52-year old man that I am stands amazed … I guess the 2 of us balance out populating the planet in some wild way. As we hung out on her porch, lots of family walked by composing many generations shouting their affection.

Both of my dead grandmothers were born in 1900 and lived until 95. I could feel my grandmas Sonia and Rachel’s energy nearby when I visit with Inez.

Inez’s sister is still alive at 105 and lives directly across the street. She swears that drinking Guaro every day is her secret. (Guaro is a clear liquor made from sugar cane and is the national drink of Costa Rica in the same way that tequila is the drink of Mexico.) I have a few shots myself every day and it has helped me retain a Pura Vida Costa Rica vision of life for the last 6 years.

Inez somehow went to the University of Costa Rica to discover a bigger world, rare for a woman of her time. She became a teacher and taught in El Empalme for forty years, which strangely is where I have my organic coffee farm. She rode a horse 45 minutes every day to get to work while I make the 8-minute drive on a regular basis. She earned 75 Colones a month as a teacher. That was when Colones had real value!!! (The current exchange rate is about 500 Colones for $1.) 5 Colones isn’t worth squat today, but then it was paper money rather than a worthless coin.

Her husband was part of the Costa Rican Revolution in the 1940’s whose leaders were from San Ramon. As she shared her story, an alcoholic female neighbor passed by and Inez went in the house to get a loaf of bread to give her and said her style is to still try to help everyone when she can. I jokingly asked her if she had a boyfriend these days but she told me she didn’t want the obligation.

Her vision is fairly simple. If you have enough food to eat, your health and family around you … it’s reason to be happy and not obsess on more complex desires. This joy has consistently revealed itself to me in San Ramon while in the richest country in the World, people often focus on what they don’t have.

Inez is a beautiful woman/person in every way and I’m proud to call her my friend. It’s pretty easy for me to whine about what I wish was different. A visit to my 99-year old friend Inez, keeps life in a healthy perspective.