Beauty is a Construct

Ryan Flynn —

If you would have told me this time a year ago that my best friend would be dead, I would have laughed in your face.

Never would the idea have crossed my mind that the quick-witted, high-spirited, “old in the face, young in the heart” woman that I met 20 years ago would be taking her last breath.

But one year has passed and the realization has finally taken hold. Never again can I walk into her apartment and accept a hand full of candy, a root beer, or the latest National Geographic magazine, and be endlessly entertained.

Never again can I sprawl on the floor of that apartment, tracing my fingers over a map of the world, while she called out coordinates, or better yet draw my own maps.

However, I will still try day in and day out. I will still try to make every step I plant down on this Earth just a little further than my last, because that’s what she taught me. She taught me to look past the conventional, question the norm, and draw my own path.

Her biggest interest quite possibly was history, and it was only just weeks before that last breath that I became a history major, and with a smile on her face, I am sure she would have said something along the lines of, “I told you so.”

Her best piece of advice was nothing she ever actually said. It was a culmination of lessons. It was shared through all the countless times she would tell stories, even if they were embarrassing stories about our adventures, to my mom, who nonetheless would look at me like “seriously?” The advice was that no matter how old you get, never let your sense of wonder diminish or your love of laughter cease, because both are something that will never grow old and can never be taken away from you.

She also taught me that beauty was just a construct. You can argue that some skinny model on the cover of Cosmopolitan this month is beautiful, and yet I would argue that the look that this old woman got in her eyes every time we played checkers is how beauty should really be measured.

I may have only known a fraction of her life, and shared even less of it, but she shared all of mine and influenced it far beyond her wildest imagination (which I must say was sometimes borderline ridiculous), and yet I still yearn to learn more. However, I am constantly reminded that I don’t need to know more. I have plenty as it is. To quote the great Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich’s mother, Mary Ellen:

Roses for remembrance

Daffodils to sing

Let us do a sundance

To honor everything!

(No, I can’t dance, honey –

My legs just barely wiggle

But I am gonna try it, kid.

And you are free to giggle.)

So what if I should slip and fall

And break stuff while I sing?

I’m using all that I got left

To honor everything!

RIP Mrs. Blake


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