Donna Ryan / Lifestyle & Retirement / Senior Living


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Hold fast to dreams, for if the dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly—-Langston Hughes

Last August I wrote a post about a dear friend of my Mother who at the age of 97 packed up her home in Queens,
New York to move to an assisted living facility in Pennsylvania to be closer to her son and his family.  Out of all the posts I have done through the years I received so much feed back so I decided after experiencing a bit of a writers block to do an update on this inspirational woman.

Upon arriving at her new home she was upbeat and enthusiastic unpacking her boxes and fitting everything into her two rooms.  We speak often and I loved hearing about how she enjoyed the fresh air and being out in the country, how the staff was helpful and kind, and while it was not home she was appreciative of all the care she was receiving.  During the Winter months I sensed her tone was beginning to change, she was beginning to sound more irritable but at the same time appreciative.   The newness had worn off and she was expressing to me how she did not think despite being now 98 it was healthy to be surrounded by only those her own age.  She explained that in less than a year  three of the friends she made had died.  It gets depressing at this age.  I hate the word goodbye!

Last week I dialed her number and the sad hello and response I am not doing well when I asked her how she was tore at my heart.  In a tone I had never heard her use she sadly told me her son had terminal cancer and all they could do was make him comfortable.  I could hear this tough strong woman holding back her tears saying she did not know how she was going to be able to find the strength to bury another son as she lost her first born ten years ago.

I sat holding my phone wishing I could give her words of wisdom as she has given me.   She told me she would have to speak to me another day and I answered I am thinking of you and will constantly keep you and your family in my prayers.

Despite her broken wings she ended that conversation with live your life Donna.  Ignore your troubles and fly while you are able to as life changes very suddenly.  We never say good-bye ending our conversations and this one ended like all the others with the German Auf Wiedersehen.

I hung up and sat thinking of this wise woman and a conversation I had with her in February.  I had found out that my niece in Atlanta was graduating college and I had not been down in a few years and I so wanted to attend but my husband could not get vacation and there was no way I could fly alone.  In her stern strong voice she asked me why on earth I was putting this off!  She was definitely not wasting time coddling my inner child excuses.  She told me to stop it; I was certainly not going to be travelling  alone as there will be 200 other people on board and if my date to die is May 9th it will not matter if I am on the ground or in the sky.  Don’t wait until your dying to wish you had done it!

That Sunday night after ending that conversation  with a pounding heart I sat together with my husband at the computer and booked the flight.

On May 9th I sat in terminal D1 of LaGuardia airport and was overwhelmed with emotion that I was flying alone.  I heard her voice and actually laughed remembering her line there will be 200 people on board.  She was correct as the flight was overbooked and they were offering passengers $600. to take a later flight.  I was doing something independently for the first time but I was not travelling alone.

The trip was fantastic!  The graduation was beautiful; I cheered at little league games of my great niece and nephew, enjoyed wonderful dinners with my grown nieces, nephew and their spouses.  I loved shopping, walking, and talking with my sister and I am laughing as I remember how we looked like Lucy and Ethel trying to hang a curtain rod determined we can do this and despite a few holes in the wall we did.  We laughed so hard but the curtain covered it up and until now it was our secret.  I absolutely loved every second of being with all of them.

A great memory I would have lost out on for sure!

I dialed her number again yesterday and while there is no change on her son she was happy to hear from me and this time we chatted for 90 minutes.  She explained how she had a nice chat with her doctor the day before and he encouraged her to keep her faith and to try and remain strong.  She said she had gone out to play bingo again to pass her time and she is able to get out a bit more again as the weather is warming up.  She said it still annoys her when others complain about all the rain we have been having.  She said you need to bathe don’t you?  You want to have coffee and tea?  How the heck do you think you will get it if it does not rain.

I laughed and said you still have so much wisdom.  She said wisdom, young people today look at me like I am crazy!!  Some visitors pass you by like your contagious.  Everyone fears they are going to be here one day themselves.  I said shame on them; their loss for sure!!!

Oh Donna she proceeded to say; create the good old days while you are able.  Before you know it you wind up in a place like this and you sure will be glad you flew while you could.  Those are the memories that will get you through your final chapters.  Stop dreaming, as you accomplish one start on the next. Live, love, laugh, have fun and never forget today will one day be the good old days.

She proudly said she had no regrets looking back on a life well lived and that is her dream for me.  Don’t keep frustrating yourself over doors closed!  All that does is create barriers for so many new knobs just waiting for you to turn and enter.

Despite her broken wings I tell her every phone call she is an inspiration to me.

At the end of the call we both had a good laugh as I accidentally said good-bye.  She yelled; no good-bye
Auf Wiedersehen.  Don’t start getting depressing like all these old people in this place.  I will talk to you next week!  And you better tell me about a new adventure you did too!

I whispered thank you for being the wind beneath my wings when I hung up the phone.

In my heart I always knew I had the ability to fly  but the comfort of holding onto my dreams and remaining broken winged kept me feeling safe in my nest.  I needed the push and once I made the choice of finally listening it opened up the door of confidence for me.

I am not sure what adventures are to come as I tap the keys this morning but a dream definitely came true for me taking that flight.   I also don’t fear her contagious attitude;  I pray to catch it.

I will not say goodbye as I hit send.  To quote this wise woman, Auf Wiedersehen!
Editor’s Note:  Visit AFL member Donna Ryan at her website:  She says, “I have always thrived on inspiration. I love reading it everywhere I can find it. I am 55 and it has been a journey with many twists and turns. I invite all 50+ women to join me in discussions on this second chapter. Our road ahead is fun and exciting because these truly are the best days of our lives.”

I thrive on inspiration; I read it every day and I try to live and share it through my actions. Stepping out of our comfort zone can be very frightening. I have learned that I will never grow if I don’t face fear! I encourage all women to join me on this sometimes weird and scary adventure. Let’s discuss all sorts of things from makeup colors, to recipes, books, funny jokes and everything in between. We are on this journey together so let’s gather around and share our stories, dreams, and goals as well as happy and sad times too. You name it; we can do it! We are fifty something and these are the best days of our lives. No matter what the circumstances you are living you are only a keystroke away from friends that care! So join the circle of the 50plusstickingtogether friendship chain. Let’s keep learning, growing and inspiring each other together. It’s Never Too Late!!! Visit AFL member Donna Ryan at her website:

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