Anne is who I aspire to be! At eighty-five, her eyes still twinkle with the look of mischief that most people lose when they are forced to grow up. Her biggest flaw is that she makes the rest of us average or below-average people feel like wimps. Most of her time is spent doing volunteer work, helping others. The day we stopped in for a visit, she had also been babysitting her two great-grandchildren. Like all good great-grandmothers, she had a room filled with toys, and made my children feel right at home. She had been working hard on canning, something she manages to do every harvest. The fruits of her labor included some delicious-looking homemade tomato and vegetable soup. The home she has happily lived in for the last fifty-six years is clean and modest, decorated with bright, happy sunflowers.
Anne was born in the coastal town of Brest, France. At age three she moved to Cherbourg, France, which is where she grew up. Anne never knew her biological parents. She was not adopted, but was raised, along with another boy, by a kind woman who was not able to have her own children. She was in the heart of France when the Germans attacked during World War II. She remembers German planes flying overhead and showed us photos of spots where she had played as a child that were later hit by bombs. If it had not been for the war, Anne would not have met her husband. He was a U.S. Army soldier stationed near her home. Somehow, despite the fact that Anne could not speak English, they fell in love and married. Shortly thereafter, they had two children and moved to the United States.
After fifty years of living in the U.S., Anne still has a thick French accent. She is petite, no more than four foot eight inches. But what she lacks in height she makes up for in spunk. One of her few complaints was the poor treatment she received from her father-in-law when she came to the States. She was disappointed to find that the home they would be sharing with him was a wooden shack with no running water and mattresses made from corn husk. One humorous story that she related was that her father-in-law became lazy and would urinate on the living room floor. One day she had enough; she jumped on his back and pushed him to the ground. She then rubbed his nose in the urine and told him that the next time she would make him drink it. He never did it again!
Anne loves to do anything involving her hands and is an extremely hard worker. She does not feel that she has a talent, but I feel her strength of character is a gift few possess. If money wasn’t an object and she could do anything with her life, she would do exactly what she is doing now: helping others. Her best advice is to serve God. She has no regrets: “What is the point in looking back?” she says. Her saddest time was when her husband died in 1984 and also when her son died of cancer a few years ago. She laughs mischievously when she says her happiest time was when her father-in-law died.
So what Forgotten Wisdom did Anne teach me? First of all, that humans have an amazing ability to adapt. Anne moved away from those she loved, and all she knew, to a land in which she was a foreigner. She had to teach herself English and learn a new way of life. She accomplished this and has adjusted remarkably well. One thing Anne never learned to do was drive a car. Somehow, despite this handicap, she functions better than those who do drive vehicles. She has her own home and many people who love her dearly. That is what I call adapting to what life gives you.
The second thing I learned from Anne is that attitude is everything. She is proactive about her happiness. She never spoke of regrets and doesn’t seem to waste time looking back. She has her eyes firmly set on the future. Instead of worrying about her own problems and wallowing in self-pity, she gets out there and helps others. She has managed to find happiness, laughter, and joy even during her most trying times. She is honest and witty, with a kind heart. We left her feeling bright and happy just like the sunflowers that decorate her home.
by Aubrey Avila
One of the things I’ve learned from Anne is to not think about our regrets. Anne said she didn’t have any regrets, and if she did she never dwelt on them. She doesn’t sit around thinking about all the things she shouldn’t or should have done. That is one thing I admire about her.
Another thing that I have learned from her is to not sit around and feel bad about yourself. Anne does not sit around doing nothing and feeling sorry for herself. She is the busiest eighty-five-year-old I have ever met. She is a great person to talk to and a good friend.
by Ansleigh Avila