The Secret of Long Life

As many of you know, yesterday we celebrated my mom, Luza's 100th birthday. Thank you all for the wonderful birthday wishes. I printed them all out and they're going in her newest scrapbook, but that's not important right now.

When you reach a certain age, in this case, 100 years, people often ask, "So, what's your secret?"

The question they're really asking, I think, is, "What did you do to get here?"

I can't answer that for other people, but I can tell you that the secret to my mom's long and healthy life are not the things she did, but the things she did not do.

100 pinata

1. She never worked outside of her home.

My dad was always the breadwinner. She went from her parents' home to becoming his bride. She was exclusively a wife and mother and eventually, a grandmother. My siblings and I continue to take care of her.

2. She never drove a car.

My dad, and as we got our drivers licenses, all of us drove her wherever she wanted or needed to go.

3. She was never bitter about the past.

Her life changed radically and completely when we came here to the U.S. She lost the only country and language she had ever known. She never saw her mother again. She left her home and wealth to start over in this new country with a family of 6 kids. She was 47 years old.

4. She did not stop reading.

She still reads voraciously and has two or three novels going at once. She also enjoys the occasional self-help book. Go figure.

5. She didn't lose her faith.

Communism took over our island home and with it, came the destruction of the church. She continues to read her bible every single day. The readings go like this - 1 chapter New Testament, 1 chapter Old Testament, 1 Psalm, 1 Proverbs. On this schedule, she reads her bible cover to cover every year. And it shows.

Luza's bible

6. She has never stopped learning.

Because she's such a voracious reader, she likes to clip articles from magazines and newspapers (in Spanish, of course). She likes to learn fun facts about the nations competing in the Olympics. She collects inspirational quotes. She can have an intelligent conversation about what's happening in the world and politics. She has voted in every U.S. election since she became an American citizen.

7. She won't stop making plans.

Of course, it's been years since she has been able to work on any projects herself, but that hasn't stopped her from clipping decorating ideas from magazines, or making plans to add flowers to her garden. Even when I'm the one hosting the party, she will always offer an idea that she has found. Also, she keeps scrapbooks. She has dozens of them full of the things that she finds cute, or useful, or memorable. She works diligently on these all the time.

8. She doesn't worry about her phone bill.

She is still in touch with her siblings in Cuba and our first next door neighbor when we first arrived in the U.S. She calls many of her old friends (some that she knew from summers in the late 50's from Varadero Beach) regularly.

9. She didn't stop taking care of herself.

She still regularly colors her hair, goes to the beauty parlor, paints her nails, wears perfume, and of course, wears lipstick. Even if no one is visiting that day and even if she's not going anywhere, she gets dressed and grooms herself every day.

10. She never despaired.

She had to start her life over in mid-life, and true to the Cuban character, she made jokes about it. She raised a family in a new and foreign culture. She was always of the "Where There's Life, There's Hope" camp and that's how she has lived her life.

My indomitable mother is 100 years old young. Maybe it's time to make my own not-to-do list.