I never tire of spending an afternoon with Missoula icon Emma Lommasson who just isn’t sure how or why the former UM Lodge bears her name because she lived so long.
Assuring her that was not the case I had an even additional treat Sunday when my daughter and her husband from Billings and celebrating their wedding anniversary graced her doorstep for the first time
You’ve never met or seen anyone my age have you, she chirped a bit to the youngsters who are not half her age.
But then after all, at 106 and six months which she repeated several times during our 30-minute visit that could be said for the majority of the population.
As we were exchanging pleasantries in her third floor small two bedroom apartment at the Village Senior Residence where she has lived the last 18 years, a knock on the door brought former University of Montana law school dean Martin Burke to make one of his frequent visits.
Emma admits she doesn’t eat much and it shows and predictably she isn’t hungry so Burke brought his own concoction of a milk shake filled with all her nutritional needs, instructing me before I leave to be sure she drank it all.
And additionally gave her a single aspirin, her only medication.
It took some coaxing and ignoring her plea to put the drink in the refrigerator but she finally consumed the shake during the half hour or so that Burke stayed.
Lommasson noted her hearing was failing a bit – go figure- and retrieved a hearing device from the other room but didn’t like how it fit.
Her eyesight also has been steadily declining preventing her from reading the newspaper and letting her see just the right side of my face.
I told her that was my good side allowing her to point out that both sides were just fine with her-ever the charmer.
There is no doubt one of these days when I call her – as I do frequently –someone else is going to answer her phone and of course I dreads that inevitable occurrence.
But not yet, she said, sitting completely straight on the couch in a delightful skirt as usual and wearing her Sunday best.
She said she sterted paying attention to her clothes when she worked for a woman who previously had a shop on the eighth floor of the Wilma.
Sometimes her memory for details leaves me aghast.
Several of her stories I had not heard before as she recalled her mother demanded the family speak Italian in the house, the homeland of both parents, so as not to lose their language and she didn’t speak English until the first grade at the one-room school in the mining town of Sand Coulee.
Of course she retuned there to teach school for a couple of years after obtaining her undergrad degree. She was the first in her family to go to college but was then followed by her two sisters.
She later returned the Missoula campus she fell in love with to obtain her Masters and eventually landed a job.
As usual the afternoon ended with pictures and the assurance we would return but empathizing as usual the need to continue to surround yourself with young people which will keep you forever young.
A beautiful summer afternoon couldn’t have been more perfect or uplifting.