to Margaret is my friend and Margaret's devoted daughter, Kathleen Mae Schneider.
"If I'd known I was gonna live this long,
I'd have taken a lot better care of myself."
-Mickey Mantle (1931-1995)
“Fourteen babies were born yesterday.
Isn’t that something?”
-Margaret Brown Schneider (1912-)
By her bright window in view of a cloud of glorious yellow daffodils she planted years ago, my mother reads her morning paper and marvels at the list of York County births. Here, at this late stage of her life, she’s interested in tiny strangers who are just beginning theirs; she’s curious and concerned for others even as she lives with the daily challenges of her own old age.
Perhaps this is why Mother’s got Mickey beat by 37 years. You’ll never hear regrets from her because she’s pretty much satisfied with her life.
Everyone asks her the secrets to her longevity. They often suggest she must have good genes, but she’ll remind them that her parents and siblings didn’t live this long. She offers that she never “drank” or smoked and was passionate about mowing her lawn until she was 95.
Was it physical fitness or a special diet? Only
if you count hard work and homemade meals. Did
she get through the tough times in her life with counseling? Negative. That’s what husband, family and friends were for. How about focusing on healing from tragic losses? That’s an easy one: helping others took her mind off her problems. Grudges
and enemies? Not on her radar.
Surely her faith and attitude toward life had something to do with it they guess. Now they’re talking! She agrees her simple faith in God and following the Bible, along with “the big ones” of forgiveness and the Golden Rule, served her well
for a century. Others are living one day at a time (recently she’ll tell you it’s an hour at a time), counting her many blessings and not “dwelling” on troubles.
Slight, and holding steady at her fighting weight of 114 pounds, Mother is seemingly made of pure determination and grit. She lost my father, the love of her life, 33 years ago and misses him terribly, but she doggedly perseveres. Calmly accepting her circumstances without bitterness or self-pity, she approaches life with gratitude for the great love she’s known and the time she’s been given. She amazes everyone she meets by still touching the world with goodness, grace and humor.
Sleep late in the morning. Look your best.
(She calls her daily makeup her “health”.)
Eat small simple meals and snacks (chocolate). Drink water and take vitamins. Read devotions
and nap frequently. Keep moving and exercise
your brain to keep it working. Help others and
let them know you care about them, maybe by
sending greeting cards faithfully to those you love, personally signed with a small note.
There are a few more. Watch the news to “know what’s going on in the world”. Feel grateful
for your life and satisfied where you are. Clip coupons to save money, but buy a few lottery tickets occasionally “to help senior citizens”. Give lots of hugs and say “thank you” and “I
love you” frequently and mean it. (She once told
a visiting repairman that she loved him because
“He looked like he needed it.”)
She takes little medicine and sleeps peacefully and soundly in the same bed where her three children were conceived and two were born. She wants to stay in the house my father built as long as, in her words, “I know where I am.”
And boy, does she ever! She keeps on top of the news despite poor hearing and eyesight. She is fascinated by the Internet and this blog, but still can’t grasp why she sees herself here. While her fifth grade education limits her understanding of such things as this or politics, she is an eager learner who gladly accepts our help. After seeing 18 American presidents come and go in her lifetime, she proudly voted for the first time in last November’s election.
She relies on old fashioned ways to keep current too. We laugh at the bent middle slats in her window blinds – the ones right at her eye level – that prove she keeps tabs on her neighbors, and that her favorites on TV are Joyce Meyer’s “Enjoying Everyday Life” (a religious program)
and “Baggage” (a decidedly non-religious one)!
Mother’s beautiful hands that knew so much cooking, baking and sewing for our family remain steady enough to decorate cookies, do simple mending
(if someone threads the needle) and even decorate Easter eggs!
Role reversals can be pure fun. Once, she asked for her favorite chocolate after only eating half her dinner, prompting me to say, “Mother, I’ve been waiting 62 years to say this to you. Not until you eat your peas!!!”
Requesting we not make “a big fuss” on her birthday like last year, there will be a few gifts and a small party, surrounding her with the love and familiarity she likes best. She did confide to me just one other birthday wish: to push her old mower around her yard one more time! We know that we are the ones with the best gift, however.
This amazing woman survived 101 winters, serious illnesses, painful losses, widowhood and old age. Having given us life, she still shows us how to live it. We are so blessed to have her with us - teaching us ways to love more fully and – in her last lesson to us – how to grow old.