Sunday, December 27, 2009

What Are You Doing for Your 89th Birthday?

Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year
by Doris Haddock with Dennis Burke

I admire people who know how to live their lives fully right up to the end. Grandma Moses began painting in her latter years. George Mueller accomplished more in the latter part of his life (which ended at age 88) than he did in the earlier years. Charlotte Mason,19th century educator continued to write about her sound educational principles (though she was in poor health) until she died at age 81. Recently, I added "Granny D" to my list of elder heroes.

Doris Haddock had seen a lot by the time she became a octogenarian. A significant string of accomplishments marked her travels through life. You'd think that she'd earned a peaceful retirement in her late eighties. But, not Doris. Doris set out on an adventure that would have boggled people half her age. This book is her journal - of her journey, certainly - but also of a life lived, but not for herself alone.

The problem was campaign finance abuses

Granny D had lived through, and participated in a time when people could petition their legislators, and they could reasonably expect a response, and maybe even a change. It bothered her that people in office could be bought by the highest campaign contributors, and real needs of real people could be blown off like to much dandelion fluff. As she thought about it, she decided that she would walk across America to help pinpoint this problem, and to educate Americans along the way about campaign finance reform.

The walk took 14 months

Doris first had to get into shape. Her son told her that she had to be able to walk ten miles a day carrying her loaded back pack. To his surprise, she got there.

She began her journey by walking along the path of the Rose Bowl Parade on January first. Then, she walked across mountains, desert, the hot, humid deep south, and over the mountains during a bad snowstorm in West Virginia. People joined her for parts of her walk along the way, and she met some wonderful people all along the route. There were young people, old people, and all ages in between. They wanted to know why she was walking, what campaign finance reform means, and what manner of person Granny D was.

What kind of person would take a walk like that?

One of the important things that she packed was her sense of humor. It peeks out in some of the least funny parts of the walk. Her dry, self-deprecating funny bone will make you smile, and may make you laugh outright. For instance:
  • (about her son, Jim when she told him what she wanted to do) "Poor Jim. Here is a sixty-four-year old man driving his eighty-eight-year-old, arthritic mother, and she says something like that."
  • (about a home where she was offered hospitality) "This little ranch is set in a beautiful desert pass. To keep out rattlesnakes, they have a low wall around the ranch house guarded by a good number of cat sentries. The cats are sometimes dragged away by coyotes, who I suspect are in cahoots with the rattlesnakes."
As she chronicles her walk, she adds in lessons from a lifetime. She talks about her sore feet, her disappointments, and her joys. Likewise, she adds a bit of wisdom about dealing with the aches and pains of old age: turn your focus onto helping others rather than on your own problems, and you won't notice your own pain.

If you're looking for a good read, try this one! There are a lot of hidden "gold" nuggets in the pages of this journal.

--Susan Price