Last week, I played music and spoke to a room of white-haired women. It was a dim-lit bar, with decent onion rings, heavy burgers, and waitresses who call you “sweetie.” Not exactly the place you’d expect to see the White-Haired Beauties of America.
But they were here. Ladies from all walks of life held glasses of beer and wine. A few had canes and walkers. A few got too loud. I was entertainment.
Eighty-two-year-old, Jo, approached me first. She wore a white blouse with houndstooth scarf. She asked if she could buy me a beer. I yes-ma’ammed her.
“Don’t yes-ma’am me, boy,” she said. “I’m trying to hit on you. Ruins the excitement.”
We sat at the bar together. She fired up her vaporizer cigarette.
“Doctor says I shouldn’t smoke,” said Jo. “But still I smoke two a day. One in the morning, one at night, and I vape until my throat’s raw.”
Jo is an M-80 firecracker. She is from rural Alabama and she sounds like it. She is a writer, a poet, an artist, and
a shameless flirt.
She told stories, of course.
Her words were a trip backward on the timeline. Suppers on church grounds, childhoods with calloused feet. Chicken pens, hog roasts, cotton-pickers, fish fries, front porches.
By the time she had worn out her butterscotch vaporizer, she was talking about her husband.
“I miss him so much,” she said. “He was a precious man, the best thing in my life. You look a little like he did.”
There was another woman. Ella.
She was eighty-nine. She asked if the band would play “Tennessee Waltz.” We played it at an easy tempo.
She slow-danced with her son. He was careful with her. When he dipped her, she was nineteen again. That’s when he blew out his back.
Ella’s husband died when she was forty. She never remarried.
“Always had me a few boyfriends,”…