Friday, May 30, 2008

Ms. Whit.

Ms. Whit. is actually Mrs. Cornelia Whitten but when we first met her, about twenty-five years ago, my then six-year-old brother christened her "Ms. Whit", and it stuck. She was the chaperon who came with my father and brother (two of the several times, I went as well) on overseas trips when we were young. My mother, no longer his wife, had insisted that my father bring someone responsible with him. Ms. Whit's husband had just died and she had never traveled outside of Georgia. My father had money, liked to drink, was young and was adventurous. That first summer, Kenneth was six, precocious and already had a life goal of being chairman of the world. It could have been disastrous. Instead, it was so magical that the trips continued for years and would probably still be happening if there were funds to pay for them.

Yesterday, my father, my boys and I visited Ms. Whit at her home to watch the Braves game together. I didn't bring my camera but have this recent picture that my sister took of her: She is 103. She lives in a wing of her daughter's home and has her own entrance. I have visited her a few times every year but have never asked her as many questions as I did today. I found out, for the first time, that she was one of six children who lost their mother when the mother was only thirty-nine. The day that her mother died, of cancer, her father remarried and proceeded to have ten more children. Cornelia and her siblings lived with her grandmother. I asked if she liked being with her grandmother and she said, "Ohhhh, yes! She dressed in old lady...(here she couldn't find the word) something or others, and she could tell a good joke." I asked if she remembered any of the jokes. She did! Here is her grandmother's joke:

There was a man who had a wife and six children. Often, in the evening, he would go out. When his wife asked him, "Where are you going?" he would answer, "That's a bone for you to chew on." This kept happening. Years later, the wife got sick and called the man to her death bed. "One of our six children has a different father", she told him. "Which one?" he asked in shock. She answered, "That's a bone for you to chew on."

Ms. Whit raised an eyebrow and gave a great little ironic smile before bursting into her familiar high, woodpecker laugh. I was overjoyed that she had remembered the whole thing.

I asked her about her health. She said that aside from a swollen ankle, that had just started bothering her that week, she had nothing to complain about. She is supposed to keep that leg lifted but for the most part can't be bothered with that instruction. She has a hearing aid but can still read books, watch every Braves game and she likes to look at her old journals and photograph albums from her trips to the Far East and to Europe. She has "no inner pains, whatsoever." Going to the hair dresser and leaning her head back to have her hair washed started to make her dizzy, so she washes her own hair, alone, in her sink at home. She said that after hitting one hundred, she stopped caring so much about her hair. Now she "combs it and lets it do its thing".

We have a massage therapist who greatly helps Nicolas and I with our many aches and pains. I asked her if she wanted a massage. Her response was that she massages her son-in-law, all the time. He lays down on her floor and puts his foot in her lap and she massages it or she massages his neck - has done it for years. She mentioned that she'd been worried that he was too rough when she first met him but now she just loves him to death. Then she said, "What would I need with a massage?" and laughed that bubbly laugh.

Yesterday, I was wearing my "No Worries" shirt that I bought in Australia. I think I should add a picture of her onto the back, her laughter highlighting the beautiful life lines of her face.


Tamar Orvell said...

Mrs. Whit sounds like the healthiest (mentally as well!) person alive. Lucky you knowing her. That her father remarried the day her mother died... I had to read that sentence a couple of times to make sure I read it right. WHAT A HORRID MAN. Might have been carrying on while his dying wife was, well dying. Yuck.

Alecto said...

Wow. Amazing human being, and amazing and wonderful that she's in your life. I am particularly loving the statement about just combing her hair and letting it do it's thing.

mindy said...

I, too am loving this woman, and very much loving that you have her in your life. What an inspiration she is. I would visit her as much as possible!