95 year old women form their own special strata in the Annals of the Indomitable. Not many of us make it to this level. Those who do command respect and warrant further study: How do they do it? What is their secret?
I’ve got one in my house and I can assure you there is no easy trick. Mummy’s “secret to success” is hard work, iron will and a discipline so habitual it rivals that of the most hardened marine.
Not to mention a sense of purpose.
She realized early on that to make life worth living, it has to contain something larger than the everyday, something worth striving for, something beyond the normal acquisition, storing up and preservation that passes for real life in our consumer culture. She understood that to be truly happy you have to be involved in something great, something significant, something you can pass on and leave behind.
For Mummy, that means education.
She is a teacher by training, by inclination and by passion. There is nothing she enjoys more, nothing that gives her greater joy or satisfaction. As long as I have known her she has been sharing her gifts and her knowledge with poor children. Any child who comes into her orbit is assured (as long as they cooperate with her draconian rules) of dramatic improvement. Every one of them does better than before and most stand first in their class.
“When I teach,” she told me recently, “I forget all my troubles.”
Yesterday, her troubles compounded.
Getting up to go to the bathroom at night, she tripped and fell. Nutan discovered her on the floor, helped her back to bed and came to call me. Her ankle was swollen and we applied ice and hoped for the best. In the morning, she seemed better. She walked to the bathroom on her own, took a shower and walked to the car to go to the doctor. At his clinic, she climbed the stairs and waited patiently to be examined.
“Broken or sprained?” the doctor asked me (He knew her well). “Want to place a bet?”
“Sprained,” I said emphatically. “She’s been walking on it since morning. She couldn’t possibly bear that pain if it were broken.”
“Jo,” he said. “Do not underestimate this woman. You can’t judge anything based on her response to pain. Let’s wait for the x-ray.”
And sure enough, the ankle was fractured. He plastered it in a lovely blue and sent us home with a list of instructions a mile long.
In the car, Mummy seemed anxious and a little irritable.
“Are you ok, Mummy?” I asked. “Are you in pain?”
“It’s nearly three,” she said a bit impatiently. “My students will be arriving.”
We squealed into the driveway with ten minutes to spare. Mummy bolted down her lunch and settled in to the work and the purpose and the conviction that her fall had tried unsuccessfully to derail.
Do not mess with a 95 year old woman. Do not ever underestimate her passion and drive and determination.
These children and their futures are her sacred trust. No broken foot will get in her way. She’s got work to do.