November 23, 2013 8:23:15 PM
My sister's mother-in-law was Louise Whiting, who was for years the oldest newspaper woman in Georgia, probably in terms of both age and tenure. Through the years she wrote and worked in many capacities for The Albany Herald. She was a woman of far-ranging interests, keen insights and extreme hospitality. Finally, however, the time came when her failing health made it impossible for her to live alone, and she moved in with her only son and his wife.
Sometimes this kind of situation is painful, but I think that was not so in this case. Both women loved each other dearly, and each made every effort to accommodate the other.
During that time Lou sometimes observed to Margaret, "Here I am, having lived to this old age and having accumulated a lot of wisdom. Sadly, though, no one wants it."
It is true, isn't it, that just about the only unappreciated freebie is advice? As we age, we just cannot seem to resist wanting to pass on a few things we have learned. I am no exception. As Thanksgiving approaches, I am not at all sure that anyone would be grateful for my views, but I am going to share two or three of them anyway. If you don't want them, just stop reading now.
Bloom where you are planted. Now, obviously, if you want to be a Broadway actor, you must go to New York. If you want to be a research scientist, you have to place yourself where the laboratories and grants are available. But most of us tend to find ourselves where the available jobs are or, as is often the case with wives, where their husbands take them. If not that, couples usually go with the breadwinner. That may not always be the place of our dreams.
When my family first moved to Columbus, we lived in a house on Second Avenue North that had a big chinaberry tree in the front yard. Gen. Joe Fant, who was a neighbor and a child then like me, enjoys reminding me of what a good climbing tree that chinaberry was. In truth I spent many hours of the years when I was 9 and 10 up in that tree, wishing something -- anything! -- would happen. I yearned to escape the boredom of just another dull, ordinary town.
As luck would have it, I grew up and married a man who felt sorry for anyone who did not live in Columbus. But guess what. We had the good fortune and ample opportunity to travel; and, somewhere along the way, I discovered that I loved Columbus, that its black Mississippi dirt gave me fertile soil to sink roots, to flourish. Now I am grateful I grew up here.
I do believe that when one makes the most of his environment, he can bloom. We might not be able to go to Harvard or Yale, but I am proud to have gone to the first state-supported college for women in the whole United States. And although Mississippi ranks low in per capita income, its junior college system is so comprehensive that no young person is more than an easy commute away from an institution of higher learning. Delegates from other states even come to poor little Mississippi to observe the success of its junior college system. The opportunity is available. Education is, after all, what you make of it.
Cut the other fellow some slack. Sure, he or she may not be perfect, but who said we are? I know some of my best friends through many years seemed unlikely when I first met them. Maybe that is a poor reflection on my own first impressions, but I'll just bet I am not the only one to experience that.
Three: Be brave
As the ad says, "Just do it!" Too often, I think, we are afraid to embark on an endeavor because we cannot see certain success at the outcome. Maybe we can't even see an outcome at all. But one thing is sure, we shall never succeed at anything we don't try. After all, most of the time, if we fall, we can "pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again." Luckily, we can do so often. I hope we can make youthful enthusiasm last a lifetime.
Obviously, my advice is not new. Many others have voiced it through many years. But in this Thanksgiving season I am grateful they have, and I want to join the chorus. Of course, as is always the case, there is the risk of being wrong. Maybe you should not pay any attention to what I say. Maybe I am too old, too stale, too out-of-date. But I don't think so.
Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.