The Kissing General
There is no time machine- there will be no do-overs for the next 20 years of your life. For that reason, when I see a person who has lived life to the fullest measure – I stop and take notes-
I met Brigadier General US Army (RET) Myrna H Williamson at one of my on-stage Christmas shows. She is a charmer. She graduated in 1960 from South Dakota State University and followed her husband into the Army. Twenty-eight years later she retired. I didn’t ask her age (none of my business- but I can do math!) but wished I had a notepad to furiously write down all the wisdom she poured forth in the ten minutes we talked. I’m using quotes to catch the gist of what she said- I did not have a recorder (I wish I did!) to get the actual words.
1. She is wise. “I live in a retirement home now. I can’t tell you the number of times I hear, “I shoulda- I coulda- I woulda- I want to say- “Well why DIDN’TYA?
“Oh there’s always a reason. But it’s too late now. When I was a recruiter I would ask, “So you want to stay here your whole life, or do you want to DO something?”
Takeaway: Regret is a very real thing that is the inevitable consequence of not taking enough chances or risks- keep that in mind, before you say “no, I better not.”
2. She is fully alive and still living.
“I wanted to get back to Branson area (it’s been a while since I was there). So I bought a ticket on a bus tour. Everyone at the retirement home is asking, ‘But who will you go with? I say (exasperated) ‘A buncha people on a bus!’ Gimminy, what’s with these people?”
“What’s this about needing to have other people to do something? Just GO.”
Takeaway: It’s YOUR life. Make the decision right for you and DO it. If you wait for approval or company, you may never do it. And the regret will haunt you.
3. She is funny! “I always ask a man to help me cross a busy street.” Why? “They wear sensible shoes- you can’t trust a woman to not wear some kind of high-heeled getup and stumble when she walks.”
“I tell the man as I’m walking with him, that I always pick the most handsome one. When we finish crossing the street we are laughing and I have never met a man who didn’t then offer to walk me to the rest of the way to my destination.
Takeaway: Humor, a smile, and a little charm can disarm almost anybody, a gift to both the giver and receiver.
4. She is blind. Almost 100%. I guess she can see blurs and shapes, but that’s it. She could be bitter about it, a well-known and respected surgeon at Johns Hopkins (whom she didn’t name) did a routine surgery. “I walked in seeing and walked out blind.” She states it with strength and authority and maybe a certain set to her jaw. I do know this- she found a way to turn her disability into a strength.
“I stand at a corner and say, ‘Excuse me, sir, but I have limited vision, would you be so kind to walk me across this intersection?’ Half way across, I spring the handsome line, and we laugh out loud, and they never fail to walk me to my destination.” She points with pride to her picture board where there is a series of photos with her standing next to handsome Hollywood actors, each one of them charmed by the bold woman with the indomitable spirit.
Takeaway: What you do best is enough to overcome any obstacles. Myrna uses charm, tenacity and courage to overcome advancing age and blindness. What possible excuse can the rest of us have?
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