Decades: Libby, Age 84


Libby worked as a speech therapist in the public schools for 38 years. During that time, she spent two years teaching at a military base in Germany. Although she never had any of her own, she absolutely loves kids.


Libby was born in 1931, the year
Libby was born in 1931, the year an editorial in the New York Times declared the worst recent economic crises were over, and a slow but sure recovery was imminent. In that same year, Mahatma Gandhi was released from prison while the head of Germany’s central bank declared he was impressed by the eloquence and convictions of a young politician named Adolph Hitler. Additionally, U.S. president Herbert Hoover signed legislation making “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem, and the state of Nevada legalized gambling.

1. Think of a specific time you felt joy. What was going on, and why were you so happy in that moment?

One of my joy things was sharing a pet with Ginnie for over 20 years (“Ginnie” is also known as Virginia, and she is a mutual friend of Jocelyn and Libby). We were co-owners of two dogs during that time: Cricket and Perky. Ginnie and I live about 40 minutes apart, so we’d meet at a truck stop halfway between our houses and exchange the dog and have a chat, so not only did we get both pleasure and freedom as dog owners–because we could travel and be off duty while the other one had the dog–we became great friends during those years. Having a pet brings joy because anyone who has one laughs several times a day at something funny the animal does–and it’s important to laugh and have a companion, especially when one lives alone.

Another of my joy things came when I became acquainted with a Sudanese family that had five children. They live in my city and were struggling. When I got to know them, I fell in love with the kids. Two of them, Moses and Mary, were actually orphans who had seen their parents killed in Sudan, but they had been sort of passed along until they became part of this family. I really loved Joma, who was 5 when I met him; the kids ranged in age up to 15. The kids’ mom died when Joma was 8, so their dad was working two jobs, and they had no mother. My friend Linda and I would sometimes stay overnight with the children while the dad was working his second job. Eventually, Mary went off to college. She had a really hard time of it, and she only graduated because of the way the faculty came to her aid and helped get her through. When it was time for her commencement ceremony, only one student was selected by the faculty to be a speaker. They chose Mary. When I sat in the audience and watched her speak, I experienced real joy.

Oh, one other joy thing for me is this: I played tennis until I was 76. When I was about 50, I played in a tournament and beat a gal I’d never beaten before. That brought me true joy. Nowadays, I don’t play tennis, but I play pickleball.
2. What are some of your favorite sounds?

I like to hear birds singing and chirping. I never recognize their calls and always think to myself, “I wonder what bird that is.” I also really love to hear classical music and church hymns. I enjoy sitting down at the piano and playing. I play, turn the page, play some more, turn the page, play, turn the page, play, and turn the page!
3. What makes you feel upset or angry? Why?

I seldom get upset. It’s little things that get me–like when people are walking their dogs and don’t pick up the poop. It should not be hard to remember to bring along a plastic bag! Also, I get upset by this whole gun thing and not controlling the violence of people with guns. It makes agitates me, too, when I see people without family who are suffering from health problems. When they have no advocate working on their behalf, they do not get good care. I also don’t like it when I go to a restaurant and see people on cell phones having conversations and talking too loudly or kids with their heads down, playing with their thumbs on some screen, not talking to anybody. And I don’t like being around people who are always criticizing. I am a positive person.
4. What is something in your life that feels hard for you these days? Tell us about it.

(Libby thinks for a minute before answering)

Not a thing. There really is not a thing that is hard for me these days. I go slower than I used to, but I can hardly believe I’m 84. I mean, Christmas is coming, and I haven’t decorated or baked much, but I only really care about that right before I know company is coming. Really, everything is so good. I love people. I volunteer for our visitors’ bureau and am a City Host, with a “Ask Me” badge on my vest. I love being a role where I make things easier for others.
5. If you were to recommend a book, author, movie, tv show, or musical group to readers, what would it be? What’s so great about it?

The book I read the most in my life was Stuart Little, so I would recommend that.

I don’t like many tv shows, but I do like The Big Bang Theory. I play bridge–I’m in four bridge clubs–and I play pickleball, I ride my bicycle, and I go to the Y five days a week to do Silver Sneakers. I mow my lawn, and I garden, raise vegetables, and freeze them. Recently, I picked five gallons of apples and made applesauce. I thank God every day that I can do this stuff.

So what I recommend is this: go do stuff. Volunteer. Help friends. Doing these things makes me feel good. I reach out to people every day because I don’t have any family. And you know, if I keel over tomorrow, that’s okay because I’ve had a good life.

Libby II
Libby “models” the fake car in a physical therapy room at Mayo Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. Our mutual friend Virginia, after breaking her femur, used this dummy car to learn how to enter and exit a vehicle once she was discharged. As Libby sat at the wheel, she explained that the former teachings to put one’s hands at 10 and 2, or even 9 and 3, on the steering wheel have been changed. Nowadays, we should put our hands closer to 8 and 4; if hands are not held lower on the wheel, and the air bag activates, it will break the driver’s thumbs. To be perfectly safe, Jocelyn has decided to put her hands at 12 and 6.

Note from Jocelyn: this is the one set of responses from this series that I typed up. I interviewed Libby, face-to-face, and wrote her answers based on the notes I took. Libby does not have a computer, but she is definitely the most with-it and vigorous 84-year-old I can imagine.







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