Of Cabbages and Kings
"Flossie Dickey is 107 years old," somebody told me. About the same time someone else was singing "Happy Birthday" as Flossie attained the age of 108. If you want to catch up with Flossie you'd better hurry.
Flossie's father owned 20 acres on the far side of Priest River. That was Flossie's home until she was 7 years old. The family, including a younger brother and sister, then moved to Spokane.
Flossie took her report card along to show it to the teacher in Spokane. It was covered with the letter "P," indicating Flossie's work was perfect. She said her teacher didn't understand and wouldn't listen to her explanations. "He put me back several classes as if I was slow," she said.
The First World War began picking up speed.
"My father got a job washing dishes in a café," Flossie said. When I was 12, I got a job at the same restaurant. I waited tables. I didn't spill anything."
Flossie's life was centered on available jobs. She said she has no memories of playing with other children, or good times with friends. Her next job was doing the household work for Dr. Semple, who was a general practitioner. Flossie remembers taking care of his house, cooking meals for his family and getting his children ready for bed at night. "I lived there. When I was 15, I quit," Flossie said.
There was no one to step up and guide her. Still 15, she married a man who was 30 years old. They moved to Chehalis where Flossie found life even more stressful. "I milked, I took care of chickens, ducks, geese, anything to make a living. My husband had no interest in working," she said. One cannot help but presume Flossie was an unpaid servant.
She became the mother of two sons and a daughter. They grew old enough to find work and left home. Flossie took care of her mother-in-law until the woman died. She even took care of her husband, who was now approaching old age. "He died when he was 80," Flossie said.
Now what to do? Flossie found work at various places, "As best I could," she said. "I got old. What work I found was usually pretty hard."
Time caught up with Flossie. She lives now at Cheney Care Center. Her daily companion is Sophie, a cat belonging to the neighbors nearby. Sophie is smart. She spends her days cuddled next to Flossie. She knows where the softest blanket is and examines Flossie's visitors. She looked me over and decided I was OK, then shut her eyes and settled down beside Flossie in comfort. Apparently the cat goes home at night and comes back mornings to be with Flossie. You couldn't ask for a more loyal companion.
Flossie told me she enjoys old country western music.
She said, "I voted once or twice for president." Flossie is not one to be hoodwinked again. She said, "They do as they darn please after they get in there. I don't know why I've lived so long." I said, "I've been told I am strong because I worked hard when I was young." Flossie said, "Maybe that's the way it is for me."
If working hard is a gift, then Flossie has earned hers many times over. She has conquered the storms and emerged the winner. Three cheers for you, Flossie, and blessings for each tomorrow.
Luella Dow is a Cheney-area author. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.