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Patricia C Behnke

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Discount for Wrinkles
By Patricia C Behnke
Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Learning from Age

“I wonder if they have a discount for a Wrinklie?” my new friend Kay asks.
I turn to look at her climbing the last of the steps to the theater in Cortona, Italy. She smiles wickedly.
“That’s what they do in Britain, you know,” she tells me. “They give us a discount on the cost of things for these wrinkles.”
I fully expected to be charmed by the Tuscan environment while on my month-long journey to Italy in May. I did not expect to meet a new friend who would charm me as well as inspire me.
Kay, 81, traveled from Wales to meet her daughter Di, 55, who has lived in Australia since 1977. They rented the apartment next door to my daughter, Anna, and me and within a day the four of us became fast friends taking trips together and getting into trouble together. They are as adept at maneuvering in foreign locations as Anna and I.
On our trips we laugh often. Instead of admitting we have read the directional arrows on the signs incorrectly, we simply say we want to make sure we will remember the towns so we pass by each one a second time.
Trying to find a club with live music in the nearby town of Castiglion Fiorentino, we walk by the public gardens and up dark and steep stone streets. Kay stops in the doorway of the only open restaurant and asks the waiter where the music is. When he does not understand, she throws her arms in the air and begins twisting her body in a dance. He either understands or wants to date her. We are given instructions and realize the gardens we passed before beginning our steep ascent contains the outdoor club we sought.
At a wine festival in Serre di Rapolano, Kay manages to work her way through the crowds for a front row view of the throwing of the flags. She looks so innocent and frail when she wants, and it works.
“Don’t play rummy with her,” her daughter warns. “She says, ‘I don’t quite understand what I’m doing here,’ and then manages to beat us all out.”
When Anna suggests we play some cards one afternoon, Di shouts, “No, not with her.”
She points to her mother, sitting at our picnic table on the terrace. Kay sits innocently with her hands folded in front of her. Her dark sunglasses hide the glint beneath.
“Whatever do you mean?” Kay asks. “I don’t know how to play very well.”
More than anything it is Kay’s interest in life that inspires me. She has taken painting classes for five years and looked forward to inspiration in the Tuscan landscape to let loose her artistic yearnings.
“I’m a bit miffed,” she says one afternoon when she joins me in the yard for reading in the sun. “Here Di hasn’t lifted a brush to canvass in over 30 years, and she’s up there painting, and I can’t seem to do a thing.”
She plops down in a lawn chair and promptly opens Gorky Park and begins to read. Later I tell her I have to write my column, and I think I might write about her and the Wrinklies.
She laughs and tells me she takes writing classes also. I do not doubt that she might possibly be writing a novel as I sit here writing about her. She has been noticeably absent from the outdoors this afternoon while the rest of us enjoy the birds and the sun. Or perhaps the brush finally began to work its magic in her hand, and she is painting a masterpiece a la Whistler’s mother.
Nothing would surprise me after seeing her climb the steep lanes of a Tuscan town without breathing hard. Anna and I stop halfway up to the church and take a breather while Kay passes us by and says, “I’ll wait for you at the top.”
Her secret I found comes from sleeping whenever possible. As we drive to Assisi one afternoon, she dozes. Every mile or so we come upon a short tunnel carved through the hills. Kay nods off at the first one and fifteen minutes later awakens as we pass through the sixth one.
“I say that’s an awfully long tunnel, isn’t it?” she asks.
At Assisi we traipse into the cathedral of St. Francis. Kay, the Catholic, says, “I didn’t feel a thing there. I should have perhaps?”
I assure her that the Disney-like atmosphere of the pilgrimage destination would cause even the Pope to lose a bit of the spirituality intended by the saint in this massive structure with its frescoes by Giotto.
She decides I am right as she climbs the steep walkway to the central piazza where we watch a group of Italian children sing for the Sunday afternoon crowds. After a bit, the rest of us retreat to the steps of the fountain to rest our feet. We have to wait for Kay as she stands enthralled through the whole performance.
“She does pretty well, don’t you think?” Di asks me as we walk back to the car.
“I can only hope for as well,” I reply.

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