Eric's Heroes: 'My life is a birthday cake, and I'm eating that sucker to the last crumb'
SPOKANE, Wash. -- Some of us talk about getting things done in this world; some of us just plow ahead and do them.
Today, I want you to meet Sally Jackson, a woman who is a true legend in the neck of the woods where I'm from.
In the beautiful Spokane Valley -- where I was ushered into the world -- I went looking for an old friend who I've known for my entire life.
Her husband's name was Ron -- he was my American Legion baseball coach a long time ago. A wonderful guy.
Ron is gone now, and Sal, at 86, is left behind with her six kids, and 16 grandkids... and thousands of admirers.
"I have had an unbelievably lucky wonderful life," she said. "Unbelievable!"
Sal, among other things, is a philosopher.
"Because life is such a precious gift that we have, why waste a minute of it?" she said. "Boy, if I get a birthday cake, I'm eating right down to the last crumb. My life is a birthday cake, I'm eating that sucker right to the last crumb!"
And she is a doer. The swimming pool out back hasn't been cleaned yet, but you should know that sally dug it herself -- by hand, with a shovel.
It took two years.
And then she started teaching swimming lessons. In 65 years, she's taught tens of thousands of kids to swim.
It was 50 years ago that she started the Valley Girls softball league, which lives on to this day.
"The first time I saw little girls going down the road with a mitt on their handlebars and pony tails blowing in the wind, I cried," she said. "I was so happy."
She was a pioneer of sorts -- a woman baseball coach for boys teams, before anyone had ever heard of such a thing.
"So I coached and everybody gave me a bad time," she recalled. " 'Here comes the Girl Scouts... woman coach,' so I thought, 'OK boys'... so I started kicking ass!"
That may be the most important thing you need to know about this woman: Sal kicks ass.
Another thing you should know is that she cusses like a sailor.
"I didn't drop the F-bomb until I was about 50," she said. "I didn't really like it, and then something just pissed me off once... and when I said it, it felt so damned good!"
There's a sign in her house that says, "laugh often" and on the day I visited, she was preparing something... working it out in her head.
Later on, she rolled her scooter up into a van and went for a ride. There was one special something she'd always wanted to do.
She greeted the crowd outside the Spokane Comedy Club and then went inside and on stage to uproarious cheers.
"I've passed the senior citizen age, in its place now it's 'Oh my God are you still alive?' " she joked to the crowd. "I hear that all the time. Hell yes, I'm still alive... for #$%& sakes, everybody else I know is dead but I'm still alive."
-- "My family is on me about losing weight, @$%dammit! they say, 'Well you know, inside of every large woman is a small woman dying to get out'... I said, 'not with me, I ate the skinny @#$%&, that shut her up.' "
-- "So then they bitch and bitch about going on a diet, so @#$dammit I looked up a diet and I finally found one I liked. It's all alcohol, guys! and I'm gonna tell ya, it works like a charm! After a week and a half I lost four friggin' days!"
-- "Believe it or not, I got high once on pot. I see this @#$damned huge platter of brownies... Well, I have one, good. I have two, damned good! Next thing I know it was like a conveyor belt sucking those things down 'till there's one brownie left. And about then, Peter Pan flies down and takes me by the hand and whooo, out we go through the window. And I'm gonna tell you, the munchies stick with you for 40 years, honest to God."
-- "Another friend said, 'Sal, your attitude's wrong... you have to think positive thoughts about dieting.' so I'm thinking, 'exercise, exercise, exercise... extra fries, extra fries... extra fries.' "
And when she was done:
"My wonderful friends, I adore you... my wonderful family, I adore you... and all my enemies out here, you @#$%&*, I'm going to outlive you. Ha ha ha ha..."
She received a standing ovation. Wish fulfilled.
"The only thing I feel bad about is I think we're put on this Earth to make it a better place," she said. "And I haven't accomplished that much in my life. There's still so much to be done, and I just feel like I haven't made a big enough impact."
She is wrong, of course. Maybe she was just trying to be funny again. Maybe somebody should remind Sal that she kicks ass.
"I love being alive, Eric," she said. "I love being alive. It's a wonderful experience!"