Value Relationships First -- Getting to Know Mattie Miller
How I Met Mattie
The cute house was yellow, simple, and unchanged for many years. It was surrounded by a few flower beds and some old trees with a couple chairs in the shade by the back door. Every day for six months I passed by the house on my early morning walk down the dark country road. The chill in the air was chased away by the warm, fluorescent glow of the yellow house’s kitchen light which shone out into the dark.
If I looked, I would sometimes catch a glimpse through the window of an elderly woman sitting at the kitchen table. She appeared to be reading and I figured she was an early-riser like me, enjoying the quiet of the morning. I visualized the kitchen and hoped that someday I might see inside what I visualized as a retro kitchen and I would meet the sweet lady that I already liked a lot even though I only saw her from afar.
One morning I got a late start on my walk. It was mid-morning when I passed by the yellow house. There she was, walking around in her front yard. I walked right up to her and introduced myself. She told me her name was Mattie Miller. She was 86 years old. I was 46. I told her how her kitchen light felt warm and fuzzy on my chilly morning walks and that sometimes I strained my neck for a better look because her kitchen looked so inviting. Mattie immediately said, “I think my kitchen would love to get to know you.”
That day I walked home excited about the plans we made to have breakfast the following Thursday. I couldn’t wait!
Thursday morning I walked to Mattie’s house and discovered it was just as I had imagined; a retro kitchen that was like a cozy step back in time, furnished with chrome chairs with yellow padding on the seats and back, an oblong table with chrome legs, yellow linoleum on the floor and an oilcloth on the table. (For those of you that don’t know what an oilcloth is: it’s a soft vinyl tablecloth you simply wipe clean and it has a fuzzy backing that holds it in place.)
Mattie was preparing French toast with Sunbeam bread, Maxwell House coffee, bacon and syrup. It was like a step back in time, but so homey, warm and inviting. She was the all-American Grandma at whose table everyone wants to sit. Sitting at that table, everything feels right in the world.
She was unapologetic about the simplistic world she lived in and deeply understood the importance of connection. We sat down; then she reached across the table, held my hands and prayed for me. I got all teary-eyed because that doesn’t happen very often. I felt valued and loved. She wasn’t a peer, so we weren’t competing and she was so different from me.
We had an amazing time and the ordinary breakfast tasted like something from a 4-star restaurant. She told me about herself and I told her about me. Before I knew it, two hours had passed. The coffee was gone. The sun had come up and I had to leave; but we decided to meet again a month later.
Why Wait a Month?
A month later we decided, “Why wait a month?” We decided to meet every other week, but we could never remember which week we were in so we decided we would meet every Thursday morning. That was ten years ago. We always met at Mattie’s house because she didn’t drive. She always made breakfast. I simply came in, sat at her table, and learned a lot about life.
Eighteen months ago, Mattie moved to Walnut Hills Retirement Home and my visits to the yellow house became a memory. I still visit her. Her failing eyesight, hearing loss and limited mobility have made her world much smaller, but she never complains and wants to finish the race she’s running strong.
It's About Relationships - Value People First Mattie has taught me so many things.
Take time for things that are important, like relationships.
Invest in people. Mattie and her husband Roscoe opened their home as an overnight guest house and hosted people from around the world. She still stays in contact with some of them.
Capture small blessings; like smiles from children, new baby birds in a nest and baby lambs.
One night, Mattie and I sat outside and watched the moon flowers open. Moon flowers open one-by-one after the sun goes down and the moon comes out. It’s feels magical and even in her golden years she was fascinated by the wonder of moon flowers.
In 2016, when I was diagnosed with cancer, Mattie encouraged me. She also had cancer and she told me, “God will see you through.” She was such a cheerleader. She never pitied me. She boldly proclaimed that I needed to, “Trust in the Lord because He never gives us more than HE can bear.”