Hitting 100

You’re probably thinking, who cares; since most brains will probably be more like scrambled green eggs than the sharp thinking machines of a 40-year old. That may be true for some of us, but not for my maternal grandmother Jeanette McKenzie McCormack who reached 100 on September 21. We can learn a few things from her.

At 11, she came down with typhoid fever and almost died. As a result of that brush with death and her frail health afterward, she became a nutrition nerd. She was convinced, long before it was popular, that eating certain foods could improve your chances of living a long, healthy life. Turns out, she was fairly accurate. For example, she insisted on eating plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids such as fish oil and avoided trans-fatty acids like they were the Ebola virus. She refused to cook on anything but cast iron and stainless, staying away from aluminum. We thought she was kooky for ideas and her love of health food stores-where she read everything about staying healthy.

What got my attention, was not her advice about the best way to maintain vitamins in cooked carrots.  It was her glowing, youthful skin.  Okay, guys, don’t flip out. Good skin looks good whether or not you are male or female.

She had a younger sister, my Aunt Evelyn, who died at 82 or so, but long before that I noticed my aunt’s skin was thick, leathery, and brownish. My grandmother Jeanette’s was translucent and beautiful, with hardly a wrinkle. Same genes, I thought, different outcomes. Even as a teenager, I “got” there was something going on here that went way beyond fifth period health class. Evelyn chain smoked until she died. Grandmother didn’t.

Sunday, my grandmother enjoyed her 100th birthday in grand style, eating both of the two cakes I baked using her old recipes. She greeted all of the great nieces and nephews, relatives who came from several states, and knew details about each and every one. She smelled the roses and beautiful flowers. She delighted in opening her many gifts, including the size 4 fashionable clothes and the Pulitzer-prize winning bio of Louisa May Alcott. She still reads good literature voraciously.

As a younger woman, she was a leader, paying no attention when sometimes people rolled their eyes at her eccentric diet. Always opinionated, elegant, and full of life, she was a show stopper. People used to stop her in stores and banks to tell her how beautiful she was. I know I was there, when people assumed I was her child not her grandchild. Few of her critics are around today and those that are, eat their words-wishing they’d followed her diet instead. There she was, surrounded by family, happily enjoying every minute of life at 100. She’s still a show stopper.