I had eagerly awaited meeting Florence, she is an angelic, elegant, absolutely captivating mom, granny and great granny. She will be turning a phenomenal 102 years old this October. Florence has an extraordinary presence, who touches the hearts of those lucky enough to meet her. She was described to me by a close friend who passed away in April as a very sharp, intelligent, classy and particularly articulate woman with a pleasant nature who leaves everyone she meets feeling lucky to have met her and spent time in her presence.
After much anticipation, the time finally came when I would meet the woman who had only been a legend up until that moment. I walked through the kitchen door past the dining room into the living room where she sat on a one-seater couch.
The dining room table is a modern rectangular table with 8 chairs. A number of timeless retro silver pieces stood on the table, similar to the tea set, a family heirloom, passed down through two generations and stands in my mother’s living room on a light, varnished oak sideboard. The living room has a warm, quaint vintage feel to it. Behind where Florence sat, stood a classic display cabinet with a collection of porcelain dolls in it. The room was filled with a number of antique ornaments, taking me back to my grandmother’s house in Merrivale, which a tiny town near Howick Natal, where we often visited when I was a little girl.
As I enthusiastically approached where she was sitting my attention was quickly drawn to a loud shriek, followed by some chirping, coming from one of two African Grey parrots. In the corner of the room stood two large bird cages with two African Grey parrots. The birds immediately noticed me, and they caused a racket as if to impress the new comer.
I quickly turned around and introduced myself to Florence and her face lit up as she told me that it is wonderful to meet me. Her voice is soft-spoken and her English, perfectly eloquent. She sat upright in the chair with perfect posture, her walking cane stood next to her, leaning up against the couch. Her light grey hair was perfectly done, not a hair out-of-place. Her face completely content, her eye lids slightly drooped, forehead creased, cheeks wrinkled. Her skin is light in complexion and absolutely perfectly made up, pinkish blush on her cheeks, eye brows neat and light pink lipstick on her lips, framed by lip liner. She was a picture of pure elegance and classic beauty.
I gazed at her, completely in awe at her magnetic beauty and marvelous presence, to me she seemed larger than life. I certainly felt very blessed to meet this enchanted woman. If I had not known her age, I would have guessed her at around 78 at most. I was instantly captured by her elegance, I remember both of my Grandmothers having the same sort of timeless elegance. We chatted for some time about the walk that she had been on earlier that day and the porcelain dolls, among other things.
Her articulate use of the English language struck me and impressed me as soon as she began to speak. I appreciate and respect for the English language and I am often left annoyed when someone abuses the language. I accept that the language has evolved(not for the better in my opinion) but I gave up correcting people years ago when I realised that I was only aggravating myself by obsessing over it and pointing the mistakes people make out because it fell on deaf ears and I realised that it is generally accepted these days to misuse English. I learnt to ignore bad pronouncing, misspelling and misuse of words in the same way I learnt to ignore bad driving by the South African minibus taxi drivers. Shouting and screaming and getting upset at taxi drivers was only driving my blood pressure up and affecting my mood and was completely ignored by them. Eventually I decided that accepting the way in which taxis drive and not getting riled up was the best option for my mental state and health. I still cringe when people use the incorrect to, too or two but smile and scroll past.
Florence left me with a unique warm feeling inside and a wide magical smile on my face that remained for the rest of the afternoon.
I so often hear people saying, “I am getting old” or “I am really feeling the age” or “I am too old to do this”. I am talking about people in their 30’s who constantly bring up their age in a negative way. Come on people, here is a woman at 101, who walks every day and still enjoys the small things in life. She spent the Soccer World cup watching each match and supporting her favourite teams throughout the tournament. I had hoped that Croatia would win the world cup, I often favour the underdog. Florence however was supporting France and celebrated their win. I laughed when she was watching and said, “Oh dear, that gentleman’s pants have torn”. She also said that she had seen his behind. I smile every time I think about that.
She loves sharing stories of her childhood as well as of her children growing up and has also shared stories of naughty things that her grandchildren got up to as children. She assures me that she brought her children up to be well manned. I giggled when she told me about the only time her and her sister ever got a hiding as children. She said that her dad had bought them new rain coats and they put one of the rain coats over both of them and stretched it by trying to fit it around both of them. The girls had wanted to see if they could both fit into one raincoat for the fun of it. They got themselves into a lot of trouble over the rain coats and she told the story in great detail, using the sweetest facial expressions. I found the story cute and entertaining. If only I could say something as small as that was the only thing my children had got up to through the years to hit my nerves.
She walks every single day as well as reading the newspaper every day. She enjoys the small things and delights in the company of her family and caregivers who have become family. She has an incredible support structure and she is surrounded by people who love her. She keeps her mind active and feeds it daily. She has many a pearl of wisdom to share such as “love isn’t always fun, it takes hard work too” among many others. I look forward to spending hours with her and hearing many more of her wonderful stories.
A couple of weeks back the girls and I headed out for a ladies night. We had the pleasure of bumping into a 74-year-old man who was dancing up a storm and really loving life. We chatted to him and asked how old he was. When he answered, we were shocked because we had thought that he was probably around 65 at the most. 74 years old, dancing in a local spot in Fourways, filled with mostly youngsters and thriving on every moment. He was living life and enjoying every minute of it.
Forget that the word “old” exists and stop referring to yourself as old. I have certainly never heard Florence call herself old. Get exercise every day, eat right and most importantly, FEED YOUR MIND DAILY.