Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lessons From a 92-year-old Neighbour

He gave up riding his bicycle a few years ago and now he walks everywhere. Seeing him from a distance, he looks like a fit 70-year old. But he's not 70. He's 92 and going strong. He exudes all the elements a person needs to live a fulfilled life; and apparently also a long life. He, like many Italian immigrants, makes a great neighbour; always on the lookout for what someone may need. (And he is as opinionated as he is generous). My mother and I live only a block from each other, so Satimio is a neighbour to us both. Last summer, while my husband and I were away on holidays, he noticed the wild rose bushes encroaching onto my mother's walkway. Rather than drastically snip back the bushes, he drove three mental stakes into the ground and pulled the rose stems away from the walkway. I must say, it gives me great piece of mind that my 82-year old mother has a 92-year old neighbour who keeps an eye on her.

The other night, I called Satimio on the phone to tell him that I was planning to drop off a jar of soup in his porch. The next morning, I received a call from him, inviting myself, my husband and my mother over for lunch. When we arrived, my soup was certainly not needed as he has made us home made spaghetti. Also on the table, he had set out salami, cheese, bread, wine and ginger ale. Wonderful. Simply wonderful... not just the food but also the conversation. We covered everything from war to politics to the gap between the rich and the poor. Satimio is a passionate pacifist. He takes great pride in the fact that, while fighting as an Italian solder against the Russians, he harmed no one. While he was there, he thought it an insane task that he should be asked to take the life of a young man, a man as young as himself.

Though we talk about serious issues, Satimio sometimes has a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He tells us that he had planned to live to a hundred. But his friend informed him that at one hundred, he would receive a letter from the Queen and the Pope. Well that settled it. Now he's decided he'd rather die at 99. When I return home from lunch, I begin to think of the life lessons Satimio has taught me over the years.

1. Be engaged and active about world issues
2. Cook for your friends.
3. Keep a garden. (He has already begun to sprout seeds in his front porch.)
4. Speak your mind.
5. Keep walking. Never stop walking, if you are fortunate enough to be able to walk.
6. Keep a sense of humour.
7. Be generous.
8. Consume only what you need.
9. Give sincere hugs and affection.
10. Fill a corner of your house with pictures of family.

Before I left Satimio's he pressed a small piece of amethyst into the palm of my hand. I've placed it beside my work station to remind myself of what's important in life. I hope Satimio is right and that he will live to 99. But whatever age he lives to, I know he will always have his seeds sprouting in his window, ready to plant his next garden.