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I'm scared

I drove forty minutes to pick up my greek great aunt for pizza. I wasn't feeling up to it, but I had already rescheduled once. I used all of my energy for work hold in my depression until I get home. It's hard to have much more energy after letting it out of the closet.

I stared off into the fields, let my thoughts wander and the breeze hit my face. Each minute drifted away I wished I had it back again for myself.

I pulled into the driveway to see my Thea standing in the doorway with the biggest smile. All my worries washed away.

"Are you hungry," she asked.

"Of course," I said as I hugged her.

"Good. Let's get pizza."

My Thea is 86 years old and she's shorter than my five feet. She lives among cornfields in the country of Indiana. She's never had a driver's license and my great uncle passed away over two years ago. It's never stopped her from living. Her love and joy is unforgettable.

"Can we check on my friend, Bobby, on our way?" she asked. "She didn't answer my call today and I'm worried about her."

Bobby is a 95 year old Polish woman who also doesn't have a driver's license. My Thea calls her every day to make sure she's okay. We drove towards town and stop by Bobby's house. We see her in the door frame and she brushes us away.

"Why didn't you answer my call," Thea says sternly.

"Why didn't you answer my call," Bobby replies.

"I was outside."

"I was outside, too."

They brushed each other off. I laughed. I assumed this was a common occurrence since neither of them use a cell phone. We told Bobby we were getting pizza. She handed me an envelope to take to the post office and told us to bring the pizza over to eat with her. I've never met this woman until now.

We drove another 10 minutes to the gas station, and walked up to the counter.

"I'd like extra sausage and hand-tossed," Thea said.

"And pepperoni? You normally get pepperoni," the attendant said.

"Yes, I'd like pepperoni and to have it cut..."

"In squares." she finished.

"You know me so well," she laughed with her Greek accent and handed her a twenty. She hugged my side and said "I have three dollars if you want some candy while we're here." I laughed and my heart ached because I haven't had a grandparent in twelve years.

We brought the pizza back to Bobby's and sat around the kitchen table. Thea put water in the kettle for tea as we started eating. The biggest topic of discussion was their friend, Bob. He was selling his house and needed an affordable place to retire. Thea was trying to find an apartment for him to rent nearby them. She asked Bobby if any of her neighbors were renting. Bobby said he could live with her but he'd only get one room with her stuff in it and she wouldn't clean or cook for him.

We sipped tea, laughed, and ate pizza. My Thea kept insisting that Bobby eat a slice.

"It's something special. Just one slice," The stubborn Greek woman would say. "Just a little."

"I don't like eating meat," she'd argue back. "I feel like I'm eating a corpse." Thea would scoff at her and take another slice.

We talked about the war in Ukraine and my time living in the Baltics.

"It's much better than here, isn't it? People aren't obsessed with money. They actually enjoy life." I laughed. My Thea rolled her eyes.

After the second rant about Putin and religion leaking into politics too much, my Thea insisted that we leave so she can show me her garden. We put our dishes in the sink and walked outside.

Bobby looked at my new car sitting in her driveway and goes, "You owe it to yourself to live." We hugged and said goodbye.

My Thea's garden was more like a farm. She doesn't even like to cook. I asked her why she has five rows of green beans. "So people come to visit and pick them," she answered.

We sat at the table for hours talking after. I told her I couldn't have too much ice cream because it was late. She gave me three scoops of neapolitan with jam, chocolate syrup and graham crackers.

"Would you like something to drink," she asked. "I'll give you the good stuff." It turns out the good stuff is lemonade crystal light mixed in a water bottle.

We talked about how much I missed my dad. She seemed to miss him even more. They talked several times a week on the phone. He'd go visit her and check-in. She could tell when he was drinking. I finally felt like someone understood.

"Tell me about your friend. Why aren't you together anymore?" She asked. I poured out my heart about what happened over the last few weeks and where I am now.

"Do you miss him?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Then you should pack your bags and go," she said. "You need choose what makes you happy. Not me. Not your family. Is Johnny going to take care of you when you're sick? No. Is Tommy? He has his on life. Your mom? She has her husband. You need to choose your own life now."

I started to cry. "I'm scared of dying, Thea. And I'm scared of living."

"You can't spend the rest of your life scared."

It was 8pm and she picked up the phone to call her friend. She lets it ring once and then hangs up. It's their way of knowing that she's okay. She does this every night.

"Hallie, you have to build your own family. Sometimes I think friends are even more family than family is."

We lost track of time and I didn't leave until after 10pm.

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