The Suitcase Lady


July 6, 2010, 9:28 pm

Frances told me one night at dinner that she had no stories.

“Of course you do,” I replied, “you have lived ninety years.”

This conversation occurred at the dinner table at my aunt’s assisted living. My aunt ate with the same three friends, and I came to know them well during my monthly visits out west.

“No, I really don’t,” Frances insisted. “You and your aunt tell such good stories at every meal.”

My aunt, though almost deaf, entertained us with humorous tales of her world travels with my cantankerous, intrepid and globe trotting uncle.

“Frances,” I said, “if you think hard, you will definitely find some stories.” I know that the extremely elderly have an abundance of time to think.

The next night, Frances sat down and announced, “I have a story.”

Frances had lived her whole life in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a young girl, she was fascinated by her big brother’s brand new Model T. When out for rides with him, she carefully observed what he did. And then, one day, she “borrowed” his Model T and took it for a joy ride out into the wide, open, oil rig dotted spaces around Tulsa where she ran out of gas.

Let me tell you that at ninety, Frances was still a beautiful woman. She did not remain stranded for long.

Once Frances found her stories, many more followed. Oklahoma state troopers who hid in the cleverest places and spoiled her driving fun figured prominently in many of them. Frances obviously had a lead foot on the accelerator pedal and a true love of the endless western roads. We all enjoyed her stories for several years.

But then, one evening, the chair at Frances’ place was empty. She remained in her room for two weeks with hospice care, and then she died.  We are so lucky that  Frances did not take her stories with her.

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