I have had a few muses in my life, but one woman that sits close to my heart is Irene. I love this woman. Unfortunately, she no longer walks the earth. We met when she was in the final decade of her life. She was born on April 18, 1920. The first day I met her, I felt like I had known her for my entire life. Over the ten years plus that I knew her, I wrote many poems about her and painted her portrait in watercolor. One of my poems started with the line, “When I grow up, I want to be just like Irene.”
Irene lived in Hawaii. She had an insatiable appetite for life. Irene was a tiny woman with a beautiful presence. Irene was one of the special ones whose eyes would all but disappear into a crescent moon when she smiled. When you were with her, she was present. She didn’t own a cell phone, and she served tea in the most beautiful china teacups. She was full of class. She had arthritis in her fingers, but never complained once about the pain she must have been in.
In her 30’s, she had lived in California and had been married to a man who once had been the mayor. They had spent their days enjoying the fine things in life, including sailing. One day he came home and told her he was leaving her for a younger woman because he didn’t want to be married to a grandma, to which she replied, “Sorry to say, but have you looked in the mirror lately, you’re a grandpa.” (We would always laugh at that part)
After her husband left, Irene felt as though her whole life had been turned on its head. For the first time in years, she had to make her own way in the world. She quickly got herself together and marched into the finest ladies’ lingerie store in the town where she lived. She had been one of their top customers for years. She wasn’t there to buy underwear, she was there to ask for a job. She ended up working there and became an expert at selling sexy lingerie for years afterward. She reminded me of myself when I left my first marriage. I had been a stay-at-home mom and was desperate for a job as my ticket out. I was sitting outside at a cafe and I overheard a lady interviewing a man for a job position at a bank. After she finished, I somehow swallowed my pride and got up and followed her to her car and I asked her for a job. It took everything inside of me to do that, but I did it. Yes, I got the job. Just like Irene.
In her senior years, Irene moved to Hawaii to enjoy the sun and lifestyle and also because her daughter lived there. Irene adored her three children but was never one to sit still. She was an active lady and you were lucky to get on her calendar. Well into her 90’s she spent her days playing poker, taking Tai-Chi classes, bridge, yoga, and walking.
Irene never made a fuss about anything. She was grounded, unbothered, and unafraid. Irene’s apartment always had a soft breeze blowing through it. She would read the newspaper from front to back every day and somehow always managed to look absolutely beautiful. She was kind.
Among the hundreds of things she taught me about life, she introduced me to Bose radio before they were really a thing. She had an older pale yellow Bose radio that sat next to her bed tuned into classical music. I own three Bose now, in her memory, all tuned into classical music in different rooms of my house.
Every year when I used to visit Hawaii we went out on a dinner date and enjoyed slowly sipping on a cold martini (she always had a Gin Gimlet) before splitting a dinner. We would spend four hours at a table, laughing, and talking about life, and shooing the waiter away.
I was very heartbroken when she left the earth. I cried for days. I have to say she was the most delicate, kind human that I have ever met. I loved her dearly. She taught me more in the ten years I knew her than anyone I have ever known. “Good Night. Irene, I’ll see you in my Dreams.”
It’s been nine years, and I’m still missing my muse. Always remember that Muses never die. They live on reminding us to always be kind, be present, and gracious. Stay grounded and don’t complain. Whenever possible spend hours enjoying dinner with the ones you love and slowly sip your ice-cold martini. Serve tea in the finest china and open the windows so you can feel the wind blowing softly through your room while classical music plays on your Bose.