Longevity in itself is fine, but the real point of living right is the love, and Mary Bass Fitzgerald Taylor, my grandmother, is a solid example of not only a long life, but a loving one. On Nov. 8, she turned 100. To celebrate, family came from all over, some of whom I’d never met. Her modest home in the country was awash in kinfolk, all with one common bond; our “Ma”. I overheard a cousin saying, “Ma doesn’t have a family tree, she’s got a forest.”
It’s hard to put yourself in someone’s place that has seen the changes a hundred years can bring. My family is blessed to not only have her with us, but her mind, her memory, and her engagement in life, is clear and sharp. I will never forget the time she told my daughter about seeing an airplane for the first time, at the dawn of the air age. The perspective that offers is priceless, and you could see it in my child’s eyes.
She was born in 1909, in a small farm house just outside Leslie, Georgia. It was a Saturday afternoon. At the time, a small brush fire was burning near the farm. Her mother, Mary Winifred Reid Bass, sent for her father, Henry Carson Bass, who was helping fight the fire. The house is still there today.
In 1930 she married Harvey Fitzgerald, my grandfather, and moved to Albany. They had five children. Their second daughter, died from pneumonia when she was just two years old. Ma and Pa were married 45 years until his death in 1975. She soon was very involved at the Downtown Senior Center, where she met and married her second husband, Virgil Taylor. He passed away in 1987. Since then, Ma has been the matriarch of a big and growing family.
As her first grandchild, I’m special. Sorry cousins, I love you, but the facts are the facts; Lonny’s number one. Just deal with it. Of course the truth is Ma, like all grandparents, loves every single one of her kids; the first bunch, us grand-kids, and even those young upstarts, the great-grand-kids. We are a well-mannered mob, for the most part. When we all get together it is usually around Ma. Belonging to each other because of her, makes for a much needed break from our individual lives. If just for a few hours, we get a reminder of who we really are and what really matters; family. They are always pleasant and uplifting times.
But don’t get the idea that our Grandmother holds back on her opinion just to keep things like that. Ma has no problems sharing what you should be doing, as opposed to what you are doing, if she thinks you’re messing up. She comes from the generation of parents that had very basic rules when it came to raising a family. Even in the good times, life was hard, but right was right and wrong was wrong. As far as she’s concerned, it’s still that way. Sure, it can seem like a simple, blunt approach to problem solving these days, but the older I get the more refreshing and assuring those older, tried and true standards of hers become.
This year, she was named the Georgia Living Healthy Senior Champion of 2009, through the SOWEGA Council on Aging. By sticking to her regular checkups, eating healthy, staying active, being smoke free, and keeping a positive, upbeat attitude, she finally got a little official recognition for being the great lady that we have known all our lives.
Preparing for her big 100th birthday event, her kids; my mother, her two sisters, and one brother, worked hard to locate and invite everyone. The property was spruced up, food was prepared, and schedules of who picked up what and when, kept the four of them jumping for weeks. When the day arrived, it all came together, and the weather was perfect. Laughter and boiled peanuts, candles and old stories, picture taking and hugs. Who could ask for a better birthday party? Actually, that would be my grandmother. We have to top it next year. It was a good day to be a part of this family.
Written by Lon McNeil.