White hair speaks for itself.
Would I have remembered her, had she thinning salt and pepper strands enhancing facial lines and furrows?
Maybe it was her height, barely five feet two. Her carriage quick, like a bird.
But, the keynote speaker at Fredonia State University’s May 1982 commencement exercises was impossible to dismiss.
I cannot name a single one of the multiple degrees she carried behind her name, nor title of authored paper or book. Even her name escapes me.
But, what I cannot forget was the fact that she had earned the first of those college diplomas at age 60.
This remarkable life, for all intents and purposes begun in the sixth decade, had been a firebrand of motivation, determination, persistence, and resolve. And, twenty plus years hence, she was still at it.
What’s interesting to note is that I carry no recollection of anything she did prior. The woman herself might credit the sum of those first five decades as molding and shaping; but, what really set her apart was that time, and social expectation, even the power hierarchy, had no deterring role whatsoever.
Perhaps she’d approached the age of 55 in quiet contemplation. Perhaps a beloved spouse had departed the earth; maybe an inheritance bestowed. Whatever the impetus, she’d set about to do, and followed a plan to repeated completion.
Granted, our society still reveres the paper credential. But, no matter. Expanding the mind, digging deeply into those integrated circuits which can only connect with age, unearthing gems of time borne wisdom and then giving them away like birthday presents this single female, now 83, was traveling the country as a motivational speaker for entire classes of graduating university students.
And, she spoke to me.
I had entered Fredonia right out of high school, on a visual art scholarship. Two years hence, withdrawing to transfer to an esteemed art institute, insufficient funds and the recession of the 1970s prevented my enrollment and I remained at home, securing a summer job and opening a savings account. By the fall of the second year of work, I had saved enough to return to school, switch my major, and earn the Bachelor of Music in Music Education.
But, at least three years older than my undergraduate contemporaries, I was a ripe twenty five. Only one other music major could claim this kind of seniority: my boyfriend. But, he’d already moved on, several months prior to the ceremony.
So, for about twenty minutes, from the podium at King Concert Hall, this white haired woman embodied me. As we all sat, capped and robed, she made her mark on my mind and heart.
And, I would not know it until now.
Now, in the sixty first year of my own life.
Perhaps you are one of the special minority of those whose hair has whitened well before middle age. Enjoy your singular beauty. But, for me and the rest of my greying generation, we have the privilege of returning to our self starting childhood, before the agenda of opportunism and exploitation began sniffing around our necks and long before we ever felt the crush of competition and its inevitable corruptions. We need acquire nothing; we still have what it takes. The means has reached its end. We can own our moment.
Mine won’t likely be white for awhile.
But, every hair is numbered. And, each strand as it appears inspires a deep, rich, and nourishing breath.
Time to take the next one!
© 11/11/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material, especially when it comes from an old person.