Susie also enjoys riding in the fire trucks. When she's
asked to go get in a truck so we can pull it out, she shivers
delight and says "Oh Goodie!"
While Susie claims that "everything" is her favorite thing to do, nothing else lights her up like getting in the ambulance, riding to the post office and then getting to test the siren all by herself. The excitement she shows is incredible.
October 7, 1999
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
Story & photos by
Patricia Swan Smith
For the Pathfinder
Ellen Allen says that when her daughter Susie was six months old, "I was told that Susie was mentally retarded. They don't call it that now. I guess they think it's rude or something, but mentally disabled or mentally retardedit doesn't really matter what you call it.
" We have gotten the stares, 'What's wrong with her type of thing'. And a lot of people are uncomfortable and they don't know how to react around retarded people.
"It's just like you see someone in a wheel chair at a door. You don't know whether to help them or not. Will it hurt their feelings? How will they react? How should I react? So we just don't do anything."
And as with so many things that aren't "normal," many of us would rather avoid any contact whatsoever than to chance having to deal with the unknownthe "abnormal". Fortunately for Susie, the people in Seeley have been great, according to Ellen.
"The people her are really good to Susie," Ellen said. "They always stop and ask Susie how she's doing. Susie goes on and on, and they listen."
And if you take the time to ask Susie how she is, you are likely to hear the same story each time, but never does that story lose its spark and excitement. She loves to share.
You will hear about how much she loves to exercise with Richard Simmons and how much weight she's lost because she's working out with the Richard Simmons video.
She'll show you her watch and her ring. She love jewelry.
Her favorite color is blue.
She loves to cook lasagna and macaroni and cheese. She DOES NOT like to cook deserts because all of those calories do not help her Richard Simmon's workouts!
"I'm trying to cut down on my television watching," Susie says with firmness. Then she smiles and says, "I like to exercise instead of watch so much television."
She'll explain how she learned to do CPR on her teddy bear.
She likes taking your pulse. It doesn't take long because the only thing she cares about is that you're alive. The heart rate itself is not important. The second she thinks she feels a pulse, that task is over, and it's on to another topic such as blood pressure.
If you have a blood pressure cup on you, Susie will gladly stand there and allow you to give her a reading.
She'll tell you about the time her mother didn't have her seat belt on when she should have! Of course Ellen just laughs and says something like "Give it a rest Susie," and everyone will laugh, and Susie will be on to something else. And she'll share her story with anyone, anytime.
"There's no bad in the world," Ellen said. "There's just no bad in the world to her. I tried to tell her about being careful with strangers, and Susie thinks she knows how to take care of that. You ask the stranger his or her name. After you know their name, they are no longer strangers. You have a new friend, and it's time to chat. Oh Lord, she's a character all right."
There is also no danger in the world. If someone needs something done, Susie will try to do it. She almost had a tree cut down for her brother one time after he said he was having trouble cutting it down and had abandoned the job to take a break.
Luckily the tree did not fall, even though Susie had chopped almost all the way through. But everyone learned that when you talk around Susie you need to be specific. Susie listens well, and if she is told not to do something, she will not do it. But if she thinks she is being of assistance, and she has not been told not to do it, she'll try anything.
Susie loves to work and help other people. And she knows when people work they either earn something or have a reason to celebrate a job well done. When she's finished with a job, she'll blow out a puff of air, cock her head and say "I earned lunch," or "This calls for a cup of coffee at the Elkhorn."
Ellen will say "Yeah, yeah, yeah. You earned it all right," and away they'll go.
She absolutely loves to eat out or simply have a cup of coffee in a restaurant. Those are two of life's greatest treasures to her.
Another love Susie has developed over the years is for ambulances and emergency calls. Ellen worked in the emergency room when Susie was young. Ellen saw children come into the ER room and become terrified of the doctors and nurses.
She decided to take Susie to the ER room on her days off to get her used to the doctors and nurses to make sure Susie would not be afraid of them.
"Unfortunately she got too comfortable with the ER room," Ellen said. "One night she split her lip open and we had to take her in to get stitches. At midnight the doctor told Susie she was finished. Susie informed the doctor that she would not be able to leave the ER room until 2:30."
He went to Ellen to find out what Susie meant, and Ellen just smiled and explained Susie's love for the emergency room lifestyle, and that Susie simply wanted to stay a little longer.
"She wants us to buy an ambulance," Ellen said. "She carries a camera with her all the time in case we see an ambulance or fire truck. She's crazy about them."
Susie now works at the Fire Department once a week. She also helps with activities at her church and helps her neighbor with her wood. And she'll gladly bag your groceries at Wold's Valley Market!
"They don't always like the tomatoes on the bottom," Ellen laughed and said, "but if you can live with that, she'll bag them for you anytime."
Ellen and Susie moved to Montana from Texas in 1985. Ellen bought a store in Ovando and ran it until she moved to Seeley in 1991. Ellen now works at the Seeley Lake Ranger Station.
Ellen has been Susie's only caretaker for thirty-nine years, and she says that living with Susie is like living in a constant comedy hour most of the time.
So much of the comedy is created by the innocence and energy that Susie consumes life with.
After spending time Susie and watching how absolutely fulfilled she is by being able to help with sweeping a floor, folding a pile of rags or performing CPR on our teddy bear, it's real easy to see that many of the self-created complications in our lives are ridiculous.
People like Susie can teach us that life can be simple and a lot of fun.
One day I must have looked too serious, and Susie softly said, "Hey can I buy a smile? What does a smile cost? Can you give me one?"
Then she smiled, leaned her head to the side and said "Why am I smiling Pat?"
I said, "I don't know Susie. Why?"
And she continued to smile and replied, "I have a happy heart."
I smiled back and thoughtwhat more do we need in life?