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Forever Young
To my Friend and Neighbor, Diane

Celebrating Her 90th Birthday
March 6, 2024


There are certain people in this world who are forever young. My neighbor Diane is one of them. This piece is dedicated to her on her 90th birthday.

People who remain youthful their whole lives react to the world as if they'd never been hurt by it. They have a childlike essence that lets them see each day with fresh eyes, their attention consumed by the wonder of it all. That's Diane. She delights in the rain and the sun equally as if the sun never burned and the rain never chilled.

A few weeks ago, I was reminded of Diane's confidence as she navigates the world. Living in a resort town is dynamic, and a parade of new visitors lends itself to an ever-changing landscape. As I introduced Diane to a neighbor she hadn't met yet, I was struck once again by Diane's approach to newcomers. I believe that each new person Diane meets translates into another chance to have one more friend "to play with." Her interaction is always confident, non-judgmental, and direct. "Hi, I'm Diane, what's your name?"

Women, especially, who stay perenially-young are the reincarnation of children "playing house," and Diane is one of the best at it. If you've ever watched little girls in one of their favorite activities, they tend to always reenact serving tea and cake when someone stops over. In Diane's adult world, it's wine and cheese with grapes whose stems are cut just for the aesthetic value of the presentation. Of course, the aesthetics of a home are always important, and choosing the right decor seems essential in setting up any doll house. Furniture has been carefully chosen and has some kind of theme that expresses the owner's personality, and Diane's home is that with added freshness from open windows and sun that seems to be shining all day long.

Everyone in Diane's "playhouse" talks sweetly to each other because she chooses her playmates carefully. And, always, the Mom of the house is busy. You can hear from her dialog that she has places to go, and you know from watching her play her role that she always gets there on time. Of course, little girls playing house are always getting ready to go somewhere, which invariably involves a pair of high-heeled shoes. For Diane, in real life, it's stylish tall leather boots with at least 2-inch heels worn knee-high over chic slim jeans, a style that says "I'm a little bit Country and a little bit Preppy Chic." In summer, I think I might have even seen Diane in flip-flops.

Forever-young people love activity. They don't mind getting up before everyone else and starting early in the morning with some kind of exercise. While everyone else needs coffee just to open their eyes, ageless people go out braving cold, even rainy mornings, because they know it's good for them and because they love the feeling of accomplishment. I'm not sure what time Diane's car heads down to the pool for outside water aerobics, but I know her Camry is always gone by the time I stumble up and head for the coffee maker to jolt myself awake. Not Diane. All she needs for motivation is the anticipation of an hour or so of camaraderie with the other forever-young enthusiasts while they do jumping jacks to "Walking on Sunshine" or perhaps "Wrecking Ball."   


Games are essential to stay young in mind and heart, and whether it's Mexican Train Dominoes or the newest digital app game on her smartphone, Diane is in. People who appear younger than their age always look for new things to play and are willing to try anything. Most importantly, they're not afraid to tackle anything technological.

It's evident to everyone who knows Diane that all her treasures fall into three categories:  Family, Friends, and Faith. Having adult children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, Diane actively lives in the here and now. While she values things of the past, there's no longing for the old days, and there's very little "remember when." Lady Di, as one camper here at the Dunes used to call her, is totally up on the current culture. There may be parts that she isn't particularly head-over-heels about, but nonetheless, Diane seems to have a mandate to be ever-present to the present. That, of course, is where the kids are, and that's what's all-important to Diane. 


Friends are Diane's other value, and like the old Girl Scout song, she makes new ones and keeps the old. I would speculate that there probably isn't a restaurant in the Newport Beach area where Diane hasn't chatted with a friend or listened patiently to some struggle they're experiencing. And if she's been there twice, you can bet she probably knows the server's name! Of course, the glue that seems to hold the other two treasures together for Diane is the faith she practices at the stunningly beautiful Mariner Church, an apt metaphor for the spiritual journey of its members.

Researchers on longevity have varying views about the particular formula or list of qualities possessed by people who seem perenially young. But there is one point upon which everyone can agree. Whatever that magic is, we admire it and are inspired by it. That admiration is expressed in a common reaction that I hear when I introduce Diane to some new person here at the Dunes. "What?" She's how old? I can't believe that." And then they follow up with the part that clearly illustrates what Diane adds to the world. "Gosh, I hope I can be like her at that age." And that part is inspiration and hope. Whether she is aware of it or not, Diane is a role model just by being on the face of this planet. So thank you, Diane, for one of the most important gifts a person can give to others: inspiration—the inspiration to reach inside for the discipline and gumption we see in you as you live your fullest life.   

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