You know how when we were little, we would say “I want to live to be 100”. Well, my daughters' splendid great grandmother “Jaggy” enjoyed her centenary last month – the only person I’ve known who did so.
Jaggy (real name, Mary) passed away on Remembrance Sunday. She always said that she would “go”, “once I’ve had the telegram from the Queen". You never doubted her. She always said what she meant, meant what she said. Sometimes, it was at the expense of other people's feelings. That's how she rolled, and you just had to roll with her. O tempora o mores.
She was largely ”fine“, mentally and physically, until three years ago. She drove until she was 90 and carried a hip flask with a wee medicinal tot around for a while longer. Mary and her friend would regularly turn up for the matinee at a Swindon cinema and demand it put the advertised film on even though they were the only two people present.
Who knows how she maintained her redoubtable mental acuity? Some would say Sky Sports. Woe betide you, if you challenged this and wanted to, say, watch news coverage of the terrible Boxing Day tsunami. Not when the “King George” was on!
Astonishingly, one in three babies born today will live to be 100. It has huge implications for our society: from care costs to housing needs. But their later lives will be so different to Mary’s. She and her sisters, for example, all made it to their golden wedding anniversaries - in Mary's case, a diamond: 60 years! This, despite being married to military husbands who each served in the Second World War.
I once asked her husband Alastair the secret of their marital longevity. ”Simple, dear boy. It comes in this ear, it goes out the other and never touches the sides,“ was his dry response.
Mary and her sisters despaired of the ”modern rush“ to divorce: ”Oh, godfathers! (her only expletive), all the children had a lot of uncles during the war...“ She lamented that “turning a blind eye” was a lost art. A mother of four, she was focused on enjoying life, often putting herself first. Perhaps in a way we find discomforting today.
My 83-year-old Ma also has a renewed third act: enjoying young family growing up; embracing a little physical exercise (gardening, walking); relishing the widening horizons that “silver surfing” has brought her via the internet and Skype.
She believes it’s her “duty to her family” to stay active, mentally and physically. And, if she doesn’t, what’s the point of living to a ripe old age? Touch wood, she – like Mary – has been lucky. Major illness has spared her since a tough childhood. The rest is all her own work. We just coach her.
Why don’t we cherish our elders more for their wisdom, savoir faire, and willingness to learn? If the latter is not always obvious, you just need the right key - for my Ma: Wifi and an iPad.
Meanwhile, I encourage you all to give your "aged P" a call or visit today. As much for your benefit as theirs. Tomorrow may be too late. So yes, I’d love to live to be a healthy 100 - but not if I’m lonely. And, Mary Mitchell RIP, we salute you.Reuse content