Laughter is food for the soul

Compass Club offers pearls of wisdom


“You’re very lucky.”

This comment was made to me by Betty Thompson, a new friend whom I met when I spoke to the Compass Club, a group of seniors that gathers every Wednesday for lunch and learning at the Black Pearl Restaurant on Heatherdowns. A significant part of the club’s purpose, as its newsletter states, “is the social, educational, spiritual, and cultural benefit” of those who come together for the meetings.

Mrs. Thompson and I had been talking about the club’s members, who are still active in their churches, active in community service, active in taking bike rides in the range of 25 miles or so, active every single day. And I’d told her about my “bubbes,” as I call them: Esther, Betty, and Jayne, friends from Ann Arbor who are all over 90. They adopted me ages ago, and fuss over me and spoil me as though they were my grandmothers by blood.

Esther once told me that it’s important to have a reason to get up every morning. (She started learning to read Hebrew when she turned 90, wanting to keep her brain active, so she’s a woman who clearly has some wisdom to share on this topic.) She had said, “Even if you only go out to buy a can of corn, you have to have a reason to get up and go out every day.”

As I told her that story, Mrs. Thompson nodded in agreement. I told her how I love my bubbes, who had invited me several years ago to join their weekly Mah Jong games anytime I was free to spend the afternoon playing and chatting and, of course, noshing. I hadn’t wanted to impose, as a newcomer; but Betty flat-out said to me, “How are you going to learn if you don’t impose?” Mrs. Thompson told me how lucky I was to have been invited, to have been welcomed, by such wonderful women. They are a blessing, truly.

I miss my bubbes. I owe them a promised round of Mahj, sooner rather than later. They set a tremendous example of how to live life, of how to overcome physical obstacles, heartache, and all the other nuisances and losses that come with aging. I’ve learned about so much more than merely the rules of a game from spending time with them. They teach even without realizing that they do.

The people I met at the Compass Club clearly share that same bubbe wisdom, knowing how important it is to stay busy, to keep moving. And knowing, too, the value of friendship. Jayne has told me often that she doesn’t like to eat alone; I don’t either. It’s not fun, it’s just sustenance then. The social aspect of a meal is, in many ways, just as important as the nutrition.

I made numerous new friends while sharing a meal before my presentation -- I always maintain that people bond over food -- and was inspired by so many of them. Will Finical is the “warm up” act, telling jokes before the speaker makes his or her presentation at the weekly meeting. He and his wife, Lola, both celebrated their 90th birthdays two weeks ago, have been married for 70 years, and still do volunteer work.

Virginia Bolduran is 100-and-a-half, I was told; she’s a bit peeved that her family won’t let her drive anymore, though that doesn’t appear to impede her at all. Mrs. Bolduran enjoys a nightly beer, but “also exercises (her) arms and legs ... before getting up for the day. She laughs and is active every day of the week,” says Mrs. Thompson, who is active not only with the club but with planning activities at her condo, as well.

I hope I’m able to be so active and so vibrant if I’m lucky enough to reach 90, let alone 100-and-a-half. Staying active is critical, as are keeping a positive attitude and, especially, being joyful and having fun. Mrs. Thompson says, “That is the key — laughter.”

May we all share a meal, some knowledge, and a laugh with someone special each day.

Contact Mary Bilyeu at
 or 419-724-6155 or on Twitter @foodfloozie.