My win today is my 97 year old Nana! Not only am I thrilled to have her genes, but also, I am blessed to have learned some valuable life lessons from her. Over the past few days, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the impact she’s had on me. Today, her final day on earth, I want to share just a few of the many lessons we can learn by following her example.
Lesson 1: Stay active.
What person in her 80s is hit by a car while crossing the street (yes, car on body not car on car) and bounces back after quickly recovering from a broken hip; only Nana! She attributes her stellar health to the fact that she walks everywhere. She is legally blind, and has been since a young age, so never got a driver’s license. Rather than dwell on her poor eyesight or use it as an excuse, Nana simply took the opportunity to enjoy some fresh air and exercise. In cold New England winters, walking anywhere is a feat. I imagine that having to walk regularly to do errands and get to work would become quite a chore. Although she was retired before I was born, I cannot recall ever hearing her complain about it. However, I can remember countless times that she expressed gratitude for her walks and appreciation that they’d contributed to her long and healthy life.
Lesson 2: Enjoy Simple Pleasures
For someone with poor eyesight, Nana sure appreciates beauty. She absolutely delights in everyday beauty, particularly flowers. Every time she received a bouquet or we’d walk past a garden, she’d comment “oh what beautiful colors they are!” She has this same appreciation for food. Many times, she’d tell me in detail about a delicious meal she’d recently had. I can even remember her describing with pleasure a meal she had on an airplane! She is not shy about eating, and although her waistline doesn’t show it, she can eat more than most. My husband was embarrassed when she out-ate him at breakfast the first time they met. Food and flowers are just two of the many things most of us take for granted but that Nana consistently appreciates and enjoys.
Lesson 3: Be Friendly
It is definitely from Nana that I inherited my willingness to talk to complete strangers. Perhaps it was her southern upbringing, or perhaps just her personality, but Nana has a way of befriending anyone she meets. The first time I visited her assisted living facility, Nana introduced me to everyone by name and then told me something nice about them. Since she always sees the best in people, Nana turns strangers into friends quickly and maintains those friendships long-term.
Lesson 4: Go for a Ride
Nana loves going to new places, seeing new things and simply going for rides. She doesn’t care where she is going, this social butterfly just loves going out. She is up for anything and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Whether we’re going to my house, out to eat, or anywhere in between, she was excited. Nana often bragged that she signed up for every single outing that was offered from her assisted living facility and told me that getting out and being social kept her young.
Lesson 4: Dance & Play
Nana loves to dance. For many years she took line dancing classes and learned many dances, including the Macarena, which she taught me! My middle-school mind assumed it was an “old lady” dance until I saw people doing it at a party a few weeks later! Nana also loves games, particularly bingo and skip-bo. We’ve played together many times and perhaps it is from her, my love of games developed. Like her, I am a bit competitive and very social; games satisfy both. Maybe this is why she likes them, or maybe it’s because she’s quite lucky. Last time we played bingo together she won twice and everyone we were playing with was envious!
Lesson 5: Stay Positive
This is the last, but certainly not least, lesson I learned through Nana’s example. She is one of the most pleasant and positive people I have ever met. As mentioned above, she turned negatives, such as poor eyesight, into positives, such as exercise. Additionally, I cannot recall a single instance in which she gossiped or complained about others. Instead, she talked about all of the good things that had happened recently. The places she’d been, people she’d seen and delicious meals she ate. Throughout her 97 years, I am certain that Nana has had some very difficult times, but those are not what she chooses to dwell on or talk about. Instead, she shared with me her happy memories and positive experiences. Because of this, her legacy will be of smiles, positivity, happiness, fun and adventure. I can only hope that years from now, my own granddaughter will have as many positive memories of me.