Aunt Jeanette knew how to live to the fullest

Published 11:30 am Saturday, February 11, 2012

A friend once said that you don’t ever see yourself as a fat person.

Obviously, she had never stood in front of a three-way mirror at a department store or tried to stuff a size 16 bottom into a size 14 pair of pants or she wouldn’t have said a thing like that.

There are just too many contradictory indicators for that statement to have any credence.

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However, it is 100 percent and absolutely true that you don’t see yourself as an old person.

And I speak from personal experience and with support from other “antiques” who speak with the same authority.

Even though our faces are lined with “character’ and the “sun” has bleached our hair to possum blond and things that used to hold on have let go and the warranty on our body parts has run out, once we turn away from the mirror, we’re still the fairest of them all.

But you have to have a lot of determination, a lot of spunk, a love of life and the energy of the pink bunny to be among the “fairest” for long.

I don’t know of anybody who was as good as Aunt Jeanette Caldwell at cheating Old Father Time. She was forever young.

She died on Feb. 7 at the young age of 94.

Aunt Jeanette “ko-li-mo” knew how to have a good time and had nine decades of “the best time ever.”

She lived her life “sitting on ready.” If something was going on, she wanted to be going.

She said that you only get one chance at life and she was going to make the best of her chance. And there’s no doubt that she did.

Aunt Jeanette called me one day to say that she had died.
Each time I asked her, “what?” she said that she died. “I’m in the obituaries today. Unless there’s been a misprint, I’ve died.”

There had not been a misprint. A “Jeanette Caldwell” in Georgia had died. But Aunt Jeanette took full advantage of the opportunity. She graciously accepted condolences via telephone and got a real kick out of the shock people got when she answered.

And, she certainly enjoyed the food that was brought to her wake.

She got a lot of attention the day she “died” and said she was glad she was around to enjoy it.

But she turned serious for a moment. “If it had been me, I would still have had good ride,” she told me.

She enjoyed her “ride” for about eight more years.

Aunt Jeanette was the last of the “greatest generation” of the Grady and Maggie Caldwell family.

That puts me up on the top plateau with my brother and my sister-cousin. We are the older generation now. It’s a place of great responsibility and I hope we are ready for it.

And, hopefully, we’ll be able to bring to that plateau just a small measure of the zest for life that Aunt Jeanette had and that we can squeeze every drop of joy from life the way she did.

Alabama storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham said that she didn’t fear death. She viewed it as the next great adventure.

And, we can all take comfort in knowing that Aunt Jeanette was sitting on ready when her time came and that she was up for the greatest adventure of them all.

Jaine Treadwell is features editor of The Messenger. She can be reached at