Taking full advantage of a recent opening of the Covid restrictions a few long weeks ago, my wife Claudia and I went to have pizzas with a fond friend and we had a blast. At 89, Mrs J has a prodigious memory, a prodigious sight, a prodigious wit, and a prodigious appetite!
I honestly can’t think of anyone, young or old, that has her ability to go from one story to the next, all of them fascinating and full of factual and colorful details, with such ease, speed, and contagious enthusiasm. A real treat.
Over more than two hours at the restaurant we talked about travels, cuisines, religion, wars, our respective children, and many, many other things. Mrs J knew her Bible inside out and from memory went on to recite verses from Colossians, Ephesians, and appropriately quoted several other books and chapters throughout the evening. She and her late husband had travelled extensively to Mexico and recalled the times around the late 1940s when Jose Cuervo was still being bottled by hand with the use of plastic funnels at their original plant in the town of Tequila in Jalisco. She recommended, and recounted, a handful of books primarily by Christian authors like Charles Stanley, Hal Lindsey, and Jonathan Cahn.
On a lighter side, she was quick to recall an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond to make a point, or to reaffirm the current relevance of that quintessential guide to proprieties and protocol deliciously titled A Southern Belle Primer, Or Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be a Kappa Kappa Gamma.
Our dear friend spoke about the Victorian poets Robert and Elizabeth Browning, after whom the magnificent Armstrong Browning Library and Museum at Baylor University is named. Motivated by her passion and with impatient curiosity, the next morning I looked up the Brownings and came upon one of Elizabeth’s better known poems, Number 43, which reminded me of Mrs J’s unabridged love for Christ and for life:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise;
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith;
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
After dinner, and not before Mrs J finished a Texas-sized pecan, caramel and sea salt gelato with a shot of espresso all by herself, she invited us to her apartment. Once there, she commanded Alexa to play country gospel music, opened her well worn-out and extensively highlighted and underlined copy of the Life Application Study version of the NIV Bible, and reading from its small print without any difficulty proceeded to continue to inspire, encourage, and delight us.
The Discretely column by Eduardo Berdegué is published monthly in newspapers throughout the Heart of Texas region.