I didn’t know it then, but Daisy came to me at a time when I desperately needed her.

A welcome distraction from all that was wrong in my life, both professionally and personally, I cherished every moment I spent with her and to this day she is the most memorable person I have ever known.

She was approximately 92 years old when I first met her and she still lived at home. She was almost blind, but still managed to get about the house with the help of a walker and she sat in a chair the majority of time she was out of bed.

As one would expect of a person of her advanced age, she had other health issues also, but it was crippling arthritis that prevented her from being able to get around normally. Watching her take even one step with that walker told me all I needed to know about how badly the arthritis had affected her.

It actually hurt me to watch. But though her body may have been stricken, after about five minutes with her at our first meeting I could tell that her mind was still very much intact along with her acerbic wit.

The first thing I learned about Daisy was that she loved coffee, so much so that she drank it throughout the day. Her son showed me all of the places that she would sit during the day and I would place a cup of coffee at those places before I left, always in fruit jars with lids so she could not spill the coffee due to her poor sight.

I cooked breakfast for her some, but most of the time she wanted a sausage biscuit from Hardee’s with her coffee.

As I got to know Daisy more, I realized that she’d worked hard all of her life. She would tell me what I found to be very interesting stories about growing up, living on a farm, and all of the animals she had learned about by farming. She said her father had put her to working in the fields when she was about four or five years old. She said that was okay but her favorite thing was milking the cows.

I could not imagine a child that young milking cows and I said to her, “Daisy, you mean you milked cows when you were that young?”

“I sure did,” she replied, adding that she stayed away from the bulls. Well, I never lived on a farm and didn’t understand what she was talking about, and I asked her, “why didn’t you milk the bulls?”

Daisy quickly raised her back from her chair in shock as she said, “milk a bull? Wait until I tell my son!”

She began to laugh like I’d never heard her and then I started laughing, but I didn’t realize that she was laughing at me.

But the next morning when I arrived at her home I said “Good morning, Daisy” and was greeted by “did you milk any bulls last night?” along with her laughter. She then informed me that she had instructed her son to arrange a tour of Mayfield’s Farm for me so that I would understand why a person could not milk a bull.

It took a long time to live that one down.

On one visit she wanted to hear about my family. At that time my sister Sue was critically ill and, though I didn’t know it at that time, would be gone in a few short weeks. I was telling her about the special relationship I had with Sue, how I’d had her for all of my life, and how I didn’t know what I would do without her. Then Daisy told me about Mattie.

It seems that Daisy had a sister, also, to whom she was very close. She and Mattie would work all day and then play until bedtime. Some nights they would braid each other’s hair and even sing together.

But Mattie died at a young age and Daisy was left to learn how to live without her. About living without Sue she told me, “you will do it, you will do it because you have to do it.” I told her I guessed she was right.

To make a long story short, it had become increasingly difficult for Daisy to live at home, so she ended up in the nursing home. I had to take an extended break from visiting with her due to some health issues, but when I recovered I went to the nursing home and found Daisy’s room.

Upon entering, I found Daisy lying on her side with her back to me. Unsure if she was asleep, I softly said her name and she quickly turned and half-way raised up in the bed and said, “Haroldean?” and I said “yes, Daisy.”

I will never forget what happened next. Without saying a word, she opened her arms wide and reached for me and I went to her and hugged her and she kissed me on the cheek. “Where in the world have you been?” she asked.

“I had to have some surgery and it took a while to get over it,” I told her. Then I told her I was glad that she was glad to see me and that acerbic wit took over and she said, “I didn’t say that.”

Then we did what it seemed like we always did – we laughed.

After that I visited Daisy and helped out with her needs some. She did not like the nursing home food, so on the days I visited I took her the usual sausage biscuit with coffee from Hardee’s.

Daisy loved good food and, when she was able, she was a great cook. I suppose that’s why she had a hard time understanding that I didn’t know the first thing about cooking, especially things like making cakes from scratch, which was second nature to her.

I was always asking her how to cook things and one day she became exasperated trying to explain how to cook a turkey and finally she could not take it anymore.

“How do you get along,” she asked. I was totally confused. I said, “what do you mean, Daisy?” and she replied, “you don’t know how to do anything.” Again we found ourselves laughing.

One of our more interesting conversations involved how Daisy learned to play the banjo. I hadn’t known she could play the banjo but found out later that she not only played the banjo but she also played the piano and other instruments. She also was an expert seamstress.

I asked her one day how she learned to do all of that and she said by watching other people.

“You learned to play the banjo just by watching someone else do it,” I asked.

“Yeah, that’s the only way there was to learn it.”

It seemed that Daisy’s family met often and played instruments and sang and it was at one of these gatherings that she learned to play the banjo.

She then told me one of the most interesting things I’ve ever heard. She said when she went to bed at night she would hold both of her hands up in the air and pretend she was holding a banjo. Then she would remember where the gentleman she had watched held his fingers and she pretended she was holding those strings.

Finally, she had “practiced” enough that she figured she could play. So at one of the family’s gatherings she asked to play the banjo. She said it took her a few minutes to get everything just right but once she knew where she was on the banjo and where she was on the melody of a song, she took right off on it.

It seemed that everything Daisy learned to do she learned by watching someone else do it. She was that intelligent.

One year Daisy’s birthday was approaching on April 8. I had been posting stories about Daisy on Facebook and everyone loved them and loved to hear about Daisy.

So I asked my Facebook friends to send Daisy a birthday card to my address. To my surprise I got 45 birthday cards for her!

I’ll never forget the look on her face when I showed her the stack and she took her fingers to feel how wide the stack was.

“Them all for me,” she asked, and I replied, “Yes, Daisy, a lot of people love you!”

I read every one of them to her and after each one she would ask, “is that all?” She just could not believe that her life had touched that many people.

I had been noticing a decline in Daisy’s health and somehow I just knew that her time was short. By now Daisy’s knees touched each other and could not be straightened. She had to be lifted from and back to the bed.

Her appetite was less and sometimes she refused her sausage biscuit. The nursing home was being remodeled and Daisy had been moved to a room where the inpatient rooms formerly were.

I walked in there one morning and she was propped up on a bunch of pillows and had her eyes closed and I knew it was bad.

“Good morning, Daisy,” I said as usual but got no response. I said it again and again there was no response.

The nurses told me she’d had a stroke and the doctor had said it wouldn’t be long. I sat with her for a few minutes during which she made no movement at all.

Finally, I leaned down and kissed her on her forehead and told her that I loved her. As I turned to leave I was fighting back the tears.

One day later I was on my way to town and got a text that said simply, “Mom just passed.” It was from her son who had introduced me to Daisy.

I pulled my car over and sat for a few minutes and cried. It was Dec. 23, 2015, and I had intended to do some last minute Christmas shopping. But I had no desire to shop anymore.

Sitting alone in my house I was wondering what I was going to do without Daisy. Suddenly I remembered the words she had spoken to me about my sister. “You will do it, you will do it because you have to do it.”

My days with Daisy I will always remember and cherish. She taught me so much, sometimes by her words and sometimes by her life, that I am unable to put it into words.

But one thing she taught me that I will always remember is to never try and milk a bull.

Haroldean Thompson is an Etowah resident and can be reached at haroldeanthomspon@live.com

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