My great-grandmother recently turns 106 today! No, I’m not lying. She really has had more than a century of life.
She has seen a lot of history. She remembers the first time she saw an airplane, survived a deadly 1927 tornado that nearly leveled the town she called home for most of her life, and traveled solo at a time when it was uncommon. She remembers a time before women could vote. The first car she drove was a Model T and the last an 1988 Chevy Celebrity (later my first car). She even drove wreck-free until she was 95! Until last April, she only required an assisted living facility and not a nursing home. Great-Grandma did a remarkable job raising my grandpa and caring for my dad and uncles on their frequent, long visits. I have fond memories not only of the stories she has told, but also her homemade vanilla ice cream with canned Hershey’s Syrup she always had ready when I visited as a child.
However, my focus of this piece is on one of her remarkable traits: independence. My great-grandmother is a very independent women. She completed high school in a time that feat was uncommon for women. She also didn’t settle for being a housewife. She chose to work at a time when most married women didn’t. And she didn’t do it for financial reasons; she wanted to work. I think it satisfied her need to learn and travel. She traveled some for work (she was a purchaser for a local department store and frequently went to New York) and for pleasure, most often to visit family.
What lesson can be gained from this example? Independence should be treasured. It’s not just a key characteristic of our county, but also individual lives. Everyone should strive to be independent. It allows us to make the best choices because we can think for ourselves and not rely solely on others (in library terms, think information literacy!). It allows us to not sit passively by as the world changes around us. It allows us to take charge when needed because independence empowers us. It is a confidence booster.
Independence is also what makes us unique. Independent people take more chances. Independent people tend to have more self-expression. Independent people show less fear. Independent people stand out from the crowd.
*Note, I had a draft of this ready for last year that did not get posted, but some of you may have seen an e-mail version when autosave happened at a bad second and accidentally sent the draft that way.
3 thoughts on “Lessons from a Centenarian”
Your comments section seemed to be down. I just wanted to say that your great-grandmother is just three years younger than my grandmother, who died in 1993. I guess one of the more interesting tidbits I remember from her is that her dorm mother wouldn’t let her charges do the Charleston because she was afraid they “would shake the building down.” There was also the flapper who would evade the curfew by climbing the ivy that covered the building, but my grandmother never admitted to do anything that wild.
The comments section is down because the post wasn’t supposed to go up. You must have caught it just before I pulled it down per the new announcement post. I’m glad your grandmother was with your family for 108 years. And thanks for sharing a tidbit of her history.
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