Yesterday I flew to North Carolina to spend some time with my great Aunt Lolly — my grandfather's sister — who is 93 years old and pretty much the most wonderful person I know.
I stayed up till 1am with her, literally sitting at her feet while she told me stories and made me laugh. She's vibrant, hilarious, generous, strong and earthy (at one point she killed a mosquito and said, "Holy shit! I got the little son of a bitch!" — so if you wonder where I got my mouth, there's a piece of evidence!)
Most of all, Lolly is ferociously optimistic. I have written on this page before about "stubborn gladness" — a term I picked up from the poet Jack Gilbert, who wrote that we must have the stubbornness to hold our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.
Stubborn gladness doesn't mean that you are happy when things go well; it means that you fight your way to the light in ALL circumstances — and, at 93, Lolly has been through ALL circumstances, believe me. She still stands in the light of stubborn gladness. You don't get a bright grinning face like that unless you've earned it.
Her greatest wish now, she told me, was that she could find a way to communicate to young people how important it is to not back down your joy against the assaults of life.
"You gotta ATTACK it!" She said, fist in the air. "You can't let it defeat you!"
As for regrets? You will have them. I asked if there comes a point when regrets ever go away, and she said no. She said, "You will have then at 93, too. I have so many!" She said, "But you examine them. Is there something you can change? Have you learned a lesson? If you learned your lesson and there's nothing you can change, put the regrets in a box and shove 'em away!"
"Where did you learn your amazing attitude?" I asked.
She replied: "From my mother, who would fly a kite on a rainy day."
Lolly, I love you with all my heart and I want to be you when I grow up.
ONWARD! ATTACK IT! GO AFTER THAT SON OF A BITCH
CALLED LIFE! FLY YOUR KITE!