Her name is “BI” and she’s at least 45 years younger than I. Forty-five! She lives far from Maine, and is struggling hard to be a writer. A “paid writer,” she says, and in the writing biz, that’s a major oxymoron.

Because of BI’s youth, she obviously knows a whole lot more about the internet and social media than I ever will, or did, or would ever even want to, and so it was because of this geeky knowledge of hers that BI was able to contact me, somewhere around 25 years ago, give or take, via email.

She told me she knew I was writing a biography about a once very famous movie star from around the 1920s through the 1980s by the name of Virginia Mayo. Mayo could dance and sing and could take on heavy dramatic roles, too, and was very famous in her day. I lived in her California home for a few weeks to interview her, learn about her career and what she was doing currently. It was an experience I won’t soon forget.

I never did understand how BI found me, but she did.

Even though she was very young, BI really loved the old movies and old movie stars. She rattled off a great many names from that era, so I knew she was serious; Davis, Crawford, Flynn, Fontaine, Gable, de Haviland, Astaire, Rogers, Muni, Pickford, Fairbanks, Chaplin … the list was long, and we had a marvelous time discussing on email those old dead movie stars that I certainly grew up watching on the silver screen, although BI hadn’t. I was astonished at her encyclopedic knowledge of all the early black and white films, made decades before she was born.

We’ve corresponded via email ever since, at least once a week, often more. And we’ve also brawled a lot. For example, she’ll send me something she’s written and has already sent out and I will know she hadn’t checked it or read it out loud first, because I would find a big typo in it.

I would then “yell” at her on email; she would respond by ignoring me. It’s fun. She thinks I’m this great writer who can mentor her and take her to author glory. No. But hey, I should let the kid have her dreams, shouldn’t I? Yes. It’s really the only kind thing to do.

I’ve never met BI face to face, but we do speak to each other by phone on our birthdays. She has a clear, pretty voice and she laughs at my stupid jokes and pretends to listen to my pearls of writing wisdom even though I think both of us know those pearls are pretty much plastic.

BI has been published a few times so she’s moving on up in the world of writing. She has a day job, too, so writes at night and on weekends. She still lives with her parents, a situation about which she’s somewhat embarrassed, but at the moment, her circumstances are such that this is the best arrangement. She pays rent and helps out around the house and while her parents actually think that becoming a writer is tantamount to becoming a pole dancer in Argentina, they’re coming around bit by bit and sometimes tell her she maybe has a shot at it.

After many years, BI finally sent me a photograph of herself and I was astonished to see that she is overweight. However, in my world, that is hardly a crime. But she has the most magnificent head of thick, curly hair ever! Chestnut colored I think it’s called, and BI is very proud of her Crowning Glory. Women pay many dollars to buy that hair color, and BI gets to have it naturally.

But what really stopped me was that she suddenly and rather casually mentioned after years of our corresponding that she is legally blind and has been since birth. One eye is completely blind and she can see only fuzzy shapes and shadows with the other. She never thought it was important enough to tell me, and I was blown away by this info; not because she is blind, but because she never once played the pity party thing with me, never once complained that there are so many things in her life she cannot do because she can’t see.

BI never even hinted she had this handicap; I had absolutely no clue. She just keeps moving forward in her quest to become an author and a trivial little thing like blindness will not get in her way of achieving this.

So once again I’m forced to accept the fact that, like it or not, everyone is my teacher. BI cannot see herself, so isn’t in the least concerned about her weight issue. Thus, she has taught me that looks really do not matter and that, in fact, we ought to like or dislike people on their merit, not on their size or their appearance.

BI will never fully see a single thing in all of her life, but she has taught me that goals can be won anyway. I have learned from my friend to stop whining about stupid, superficial and unimportant things in my life. Do I fail at these noble pursuits? Frequently.

My dear teacher BI, by her very actions in life, has taught me that I am enormously blessed. This woman I’ve never met has educated me far more than she will ever know. I could never begin to teach her as much as she’s taught me. One day I must tell BI she is my hero.

In fact, I think today would be a good time to do that, and so I shall.