Aging shifts perspective on age

Published 12:22 am Saturday, January 7, 2017

Behind her back, we called her “Granny.”

She was a petite woman, with greying hair she often wore in a pony tail. Her face sported gentle, premature lines. But her appearance was the only thing “old” about her.

Her eyes sparkled when she lectured on topics she liked. She could keep complete control of her classrooms with her soft spoken voice, and someone this week remembered that she was quick to jump between boys seemingly twice her size to break up fights.

I am quite certain that Frances Prior knew that “Granny” was the nickname students gave her, and equally certain it didn’t bother her one bit.

In biology, she pricked everyone’s finger and taught us our blood types. Can you even imagine what would happen if a teacher did that now?

For our anatomy class, she made trips out to Kelley Foods to secure cow organs for dissection. I particularly remember the day we did eyes. She gave a classmate holy hell for the jokes he made with the cow parts. It was a mean joke, and he deserved her harsh words.

Aside from science, we learned note-taking and test-taking skills from her classes, which was perhaps the most valuable lessons of all.

In retirement, she fished as she always had, and gave her time and talents to good works, as evidenced by many photographs of her … making sandwiches for disaster victims, supporting an Alzheimer’s walk. Whatever the cause, she was there, her former minister said.

When she died this week, I learned that she had been a lifelong resident of Elba, who as a one-year-old child in 1929, survived that year’s flood in the attic of her parents’ bakery. “An interesting and well-lived life” doesn’t begin to sum her up.

We’ve talked a lot about her this week, sharing sweet memories and admiration.

My father, who claims every day is the best of his life and has managed at 78 to remain youthful, sharpened the perspective yesterday.

“You know, if you do the math, you are now older than she was back when she was teaching y’all,” he said.

I did the math. Actually, we are exactly the same age as she was when we were sophomore biology students.

Sobering and interesting how “old” gets redefined as we age. I’ll give him a pass for pointing that out on the day I actually turned a year older.

Rest in peace, “Granny” Prior. You certainly taught us how to live life well.



Michele Gerlach is publisher of The Star-News.