Sunny-Side Up!

by Mary Helen Darah

I have heard it said that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I would say that my “fun-sized” buddy Jan Tidd is a “twofer.” I am still discovering new reasons why I was blessed to have her come into my life and I can say with great certainty, she will be a “lifer” as we segue into support hose, comfortable shoes and wanting to give WD40 a stab at our aching body parts. Jan is kind, giving, and quietly impacts others with her caring heart. In fact, my kids have turned her name into a new word; “jantidd.” If someone performs a random act of selflessness they will proclaim, “that’s so ‘jantidd.’”

Jan lost her beloved Kevin far too soon. There is a Paul Simon song that deals with grief. I’m paraphrasing but the gist of it says “Losing love is like a cracked window on your soul … where everyone can see the wind blow.” Jan was flapping in the wind when she came into my life, yet I learned that as she dealt with her loss, she courageously took over the family business, Arrow Print and Copy, after her husband’s death. Although a brave act, in my humble opinion, one of her most courageous moments occurred on New Year’s Eve before COVID would lock down the world. After our festive meal, she proclaimed that the upcoming year was going to be her “Year of YES.” When asked for a bit of clarification she stated, “whenever I can, I am going to say ‘yes’ even if it forces me to stray from my comfort zone.”

Well, I was all in! I wanted to see just what our little Jan was willing to do. I would ask, “Do you want to go to an opera gala?” to which she replied a hesitant “yes” with the understanding that she would be wearing what she wore to her nephew’s wedding. Do you want to go to the Zoo Lights in 10-degree weather, take a selfie in front of an emu poster that with our height differential we will look like we may not be from the same species? All my inquiries came with a “yes” some said enthusiastically and some with great hesitancy. I had the pleasure of taking her to her first Big Ten game in the dead of winter. She called me up to inform me that she was bringing her smokey links and should she wear a pantsuit.

Since her “year of YES” declaration, Jan has donned wings with the Facebook logo on her chest to be a social butterfly at a Halloween gathering, visited Dublin (Ohio), St. Augustine, and explored IMAX theaters, new restaurants and events. Her biggest and bravest “yes” was heard after I asked her to go to my rustic Canadian cabin that comes with a temperamental toilet (and outhouse), an outside shower that makes you feel like you could experience something similar to Cedar Point’s Demon Drop and assorted critters. She was a trooper even when I asked her to hike around the waterfalls taking full advantage of her “yes year.” At one point during our hike, we attempted to go to an incredible viewing area up the rocks. I was behind her with her bum in my hands pushing onward and upward when a man appeared from above saying, “Did you ladies know there is a flat trail up here that will take you to that spot.” I thought I might get a few “no ways” after that moment but she stayed the course. Sometimes, Jan has far too much confidence in my capabilities of “yes” adventures. I recently asked if she would attend a Patriots game with me. She had her bag packed and was ready to roll when I informed her it was the USA Patriot Softball Team playing at Mercy Field but in true “jantidd” form she went.

We all benefited from her year of “yes” even through the lockdown days. We missed out on a trip to Dublin (Ireland) and sail on a three-masted sailing vessel but in a world of no’s we were still able to safely say yes to outdoor fire nights, trivia from six feet away and Sunday nights watching the Great Canadian Baking Show.

We can all be inspired by Jan’s “yes year” even though we still have some limitations. There are places to explore and time to be spent with those we love. When was the last time you did something for the first time? It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose to give you a mental lift. Get in a kayak at Farnsworth Park, check out new places, begin that project and above all say “YES” when an over-enthusiastic extrovert asks you to do something. Remember, if it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you. Amy Poehler said, “Great People do things before they are ready.” 

So, ready or not, I hope you try out a few yesses!

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