Sage advice from a 90-year-old

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 25, 2012

It’s later than you think.

Mary Jim Merrill Pianowski’s children say that’s one of their momma’s favorite sayings, and among the reasons her daughter got busy recently putting together a history of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

Mrs. Pianowski was among the church’s founding members, and had boxes of letters, programs, and Star-News clippings from that era. With added research from the diocesan archives, Mrs. Pianowski, Marianne Merrill Weber and Dr. Walter Merrill condensed the history to a narrated PowerPoint interspersed with storytelling last week.

Mrs. Pianowski, a former dance teacher, tickled the audience with a story  about the sixth-grade birthday party she gave for her daughter. A dance called the Big Apple was all the rage, and the nonagenerian’s demonstration of it Sunday afternoon seemed like a version of hokey pokey. After teaching the dance to the sixth graders on her patio, she received a phone call from a minister who chastised her for allowing the boys and girls to dance together.

That someone would think it taboo to do the hokey pokey seems foreign to us these many years later. Yet it is stories like these that make history more interesting.

“It’s later than you think.”

The Merrill family’s effort, and their mother’s sage words, got me to thinking about all of the ways in which it is later than we think.

Many’s the time I’ve thought, “I wish I could connect a back-up drive to my daddy’s brain.” Often, I’ve said I was going to make time to sit with my Great-Aunt Libby and document more family history. Every year, I vow that this’ll be the year that I won’t miss an arts festival or other annual event that interests me.

Always, we’re going to get to something soon – spending time with family, retirement planning, getting healthier, completing a project. In my line of work, it’s easy to become a deadline adrenaline junkie, so I have great admiration for those who complete tasks before they’re bordering on “too late.”

It’s later than you think. Even as I type those words, I’m wondering how in the world I can balance my work demands with a plan to spend a weekend with four of the most fun women in the world. Sometimes, you just have to stand up and walk away.

Mrs. Pianowski has another saying that goes something like this, “The good times won’t last forever.” So finish your coffee and get going on what’s important for you today.

Me? Work must wait. I’m off to play with my friends.


P.S. Mrs. Pianowski looks decades younger than her years. Please, nobody tell that I sort of told her age.