‘Don’t bother, I’ll do it!’, an elderly lady said when I wanted to pick up a magazine that fell next to her seat on our flight from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur. Her silky white hair and wrinkled skin indicated she was a person of a certain age, but given the speed with which she bent and straightened up, I would never have said she was 92. Yes, Mrs Joan was 92.
She let me pass to my window seat and as I sat down, she started chatting with me. She was heading to Australia. It’s a trip she’d been doing for 21 years since she moved back to England. Mrs Joan’s hearing was not the best and she had an artificial hip and artificial lenses. However, she liked to visit her nephews and friends once a year so these little ‘details’ couldn’t prevent her from travelling. Still, Australia wasn’t the only trip in her schedules. Every year she’d pick an additional destination to explore. Her next plan was Southern France where her younger sister had moved several months earlier. For Mrs Joan, the trip to Southern France was ‘something more to look forward to…’.
Her positive spirit was absolutely infectious, even though life hadn’t pampered her. She spent 30 years in Australia where she had moved with her husband for work. At first they lived in a house that didn’t even have a toilet inside. Nevertheless, they travelled a lot, often low budget, and experienced the world in its best.
It didn’t take me long to understand that I was talking to a fascinating, open-minded person who knew how to live life. Mrs Joan liked theatre, shopping and meeting her friends for a cup of tea. She loved Rod Stewart and had his CDs at home. Her nephews gave her a perfect gift – the tickets for Rod’s concert. Needless to say, she went there and had a great time.
Between watching movies and listening to the stories about an interesting life, the twinkling lights of Kuala Lumpur appeared quickly. I was looking outside when a nice smell filled the air. I glanced at Mrs Joan. She was closing a small bottle of perfume, her white hair was combed and she’d put some light lipstick on. I smiled instinctively. She smiled back and said, ‘I am not giving up, yet, my dear.’
The parting time arrived when we got out of the plane. She put her hands on my cheeks and said with a big smile and warmth in her eyes, ‘My dear, I am so glad to have met you. It was very nice to travel with you and I wish you lots of happiness and all the best in life.’.
Thank you, Mrs Joan. I hope I’ll be just like you once I get to 92.