Aging Colorfully

This is not really Celia.

This is not really Celia.

A few years ago I heard about an elderly woman, a colorful character named Celia Nash. One day after having visited my mom, who lived in the same retirement community as the famous Celia, a friend and I went walking on the trail in front of this facility. On the way back (it was a beautiful sunny day), I told my friend what I’d heard about Celia and how I was hoping to run into her sometime.

As we walked back I said, "Celia’s daughter-in-law says that she sits outside her apartment in the sun ALL the time—mostly in her swimsuit! How spunky is THAT? Wouldn't it be funny if she were outside today and we could meet her?" I wasn't exactly sure where her place was, but I thought I’d look around and see if I could find her. As we passed the front gate, I looked toward the east entrance covered walkway, and I spotted someone in the little yard sitting in a white chair. I told my friend, "That HAS to be her!" I could see her tan and her turquoise tube top in the distance. We walked toward her, and I shouted, "Celia Nash! What on earth are you doing?"

She turned around not missing a beat (my own mother might have run inside or been afraid that someone was about to rob her), and said, "Who is that calling my name? Get over here and talk to me!" I loved her immediately.

My friend and I walked over and introduced ourselves. We talked about the beautiful and talented Nash children, how we loved her son and daughter-in-law, and that we lived in their neighborhood. And Celia went on and on as well about her wonderful family. We commented on her beautiful flowers and how GREAT it was that she spent time outside enjoying the sun and nature.

This is Celia.

This is Celia.

"I come out here in the morning with the sun,” she said, “and sometimes don't go back in until ten o’clock at night! I LOVE IT OUTSIDE.” And what a tan she had, and that cute little figure, and most of all, what a truly colorful character she exhibited that day. Oh my—colorful beyond my wildest dreams. She was made of the stuff I wanted to write about. I couldn't wait to get to know her better. I wanted to sit with my writer's pad and just listen and jot down her funny quips to use in my writing.

Somehow we got started on her hair and how pretty it looked. That opened another interesting but contentious subject.  When I told her my mom lived at her facility, she asked where she was at the moment. I told her Mom was in the beauty shop getting her hair done and let me tell you, she came alive. “I HATE that beauty shop!” she said. “And I will NEVER go in there again!" When we asked why, she yanked off her visor, grabbed her cotton-top hair and said, "Just LOOK at this MESS." We assured her it was beautiful, but she said that she had paid $60 for that mess, was not happy with it, and had made the girl do it all over again. The end result, she’d said, was even worse. I told her that my mother was not crazy about how they did her hair either, and Celia proceeded to tell me about a hairdresser nearby who knew how to do “old lady” hair. I told her that I would check into that for Mother, and would gladly take her and my mom at the same time if they could get appointments together.

We chatted a bit more and she was a HOOT in every way imaginable with her articulate enunciations and expressive manner. As we were leaving, I told her that I hoped Hazel (my mom) would get to know her, and she said she wanted to meet her. I told her to prepare herself because my mom was not wild and crazy like some of us. I explained that she was a little quieter, more set in her ways, and not as exciting in the way she spent her days. Celia quickly responded, "Oh that's okay—but you know what—tell her to add a little bourbon to her day, and that'll spice it right up!"

That day six years ago, it was completely refreshing to meet Celia Nash, someone who colorfully embraced life. She really got me going and gave me a new perspective on aging. I used to tell my mom all the time, "Please live. Enjoy life. Try new things. Laugh at the world and observe and participate with joy.”

I left the retirement community that day knowing I wanted to visit Celia more often because, I’d decided, I want to be colorful like that when I’m her age.

Jane Davis is a mother of two and a grandmother of four. Formerly from Birmingham, AL, she now lives in Charleston, SC with her husband Charlie and their two dachshunds. Jane is the Music Director at a little Methodist Church on the beach, and she also shares her music with three local retirement communities and a local theater group. She thanks God for and enjoys her gifts of retirement, which include Loggerhead Turtle Patrol, writing, hunting shark teeth, paddle boarding, and biking.