Lee Pitts: Lessons from an elder friend
July 29, 2016
For some reason I've always really liked elderly folks. I think it's because of how much they know. After all, they are well into the back of the book of this big adventure, where all the answers to life's questions are.
One of the most remarkable and inspirational people I've ever met certainly qualifies as an old person. Lavinia is 100 years old going on 49. I'm sure you've never heard of the lovely Lavinia because she's not a self-promoter and People magazine never dished any smut about her. Surprisingly, she doesn't seemed crushed by the fact that she doesn't have a single Facebook friend.
Even though we aren't related, my wife visits Lavinia twice a week and I visit on holidays and special occasions. Like everyone else who meets her, our lives have been enhanced immeasurably by her friendship.
Lavinia jokingly says that she and her fellow "inmates" are incarcerated but she lives in a spotless home owned by a wonderful Filipino family who takes good care of her. Lavinia pays for every cent of her care and has never been a ward of the state. She was born in Sacramento … Kentucky that is, not California. It seems a 49er came back from the gold mines of California, started a town in Kentucky and named it after the place that made him rich. Eight years after Lavinia was born, she too left Kentucky for California. It was California's gain and Kentucky's loss.
Lavinia is a brilliant conversationalist and she can remember things that happened 90 years ago as clearly as she remembers yesterday's happenings. She's witty and is sharp as a tack. Because we only get one shot at this thing called life, I have looked to Lavinia for her secrets on how to squeeze every second out of mine.
Lavinia never worked out at a gym, she just worked. But she was never a workaholic because that causes too much stress, and stress is a silent assassin. She didn't smoke or drink, and abhors loud music and big crowds. When the light in her eyes grew dim, she lost reading, one of the great joys in her life. Lavinia got a college degree when few women of her age did and she loved to travel to new places. She loves cats, as do many older people I've met. Heaven forbid, could felines be the secret fountain of youth?
Recommended Stories For You
Two of Lavinia's secrets to longevity are niacin and staying away from doctors. If you hang out in germ-laden doctor's offices and hospitals you will get sick. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
She was married to a farmer who died too young and they didn't have any children. I figure not having to worry where her teenagers were at 2 a.m. probably added a decade or two to her life.
Lavinia loves all animals, even chickens. She loves the natural world, the howl of a coyote and the smell of freshly tilled soil. She's taken the time to fall in love with a horse, to smell the flowers, blow on a dandelion and to watch a hummingbird long enough to see it sit still. Life is too short to spend one minute tied up in traffic or to watch mind-numbing television.
Lavinia lived in her own home and took care of herself until she was 98 years young. Family was important to Lavinia. She loved her role-model mother dearly and for decades lived right next door to her best friend, who also happened to be her sister. They gardened together and enjoyed each other's company but at the end of the day, each had their own home to go back to.
One of the biggest things Lavinia misses is gardening. Oh, how she loved her fresh beans, broccoli and squash. She loves birthday cake and chocolate, too, and she hoards candy bars in her secret stash. I've studied how Lavinia eats and it reminds me of my Grandpa who lived to be 94. She eats real slow with little bites and I figure that's as good a motto as any on how to live a long life. Everything in small doses.
As Lavinia would say, there's a big beautiful world out there. Catch it before it's too late because even one second of your life is too wonderful to waste. ❖