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What’s in a number?

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Guest Column By Jamie Baker-Nantz

I love Chinese food. It’s one of my favorite types of food to eat and I especially like the fortune cookie you get when they give you the bill. I’ve traveled to Asia and they really don’t give you fortune cookies at most restaurants there.
The fortune cookie is an American thing, but it’s fun anyway.
While I don’t follow the signs or stars or don’t let astrology rule my thought process — except for belief in that whole full moon thing — I do save the fortunes from my cookies.
The last fortune I received had this thought, “Old age is always 20 years older than you are.”
What a perfect way to look at age. It’s really just a number.
On Aug. 6, my extended family packed the Owen County Extension Office to honor the matriarch of our family, my Aunt Lucy (Smoot Hall), who just happened to turn 99 years old on July 30.
Aunt Lucy is truly amazing. She continues to be independent, refusing to stay with any of us longer than a few days. She still drives, although most of us prefer to drive her, and she still goes fishing whenever she gets the chance.
She’s had such a significant impact on my life that I named my daughter after her.
As part of the birthday hoopla, several of the nieces and nephews gathered old family photos and put together a slide show.
Obviously it contained various scenes and snapshots from her life, but peppered throughout were items of historical significance.
For instance, during the last 99 years income tax and Social Security were established; man walked on the moon; there’ve been several wars; and technology has become a way of life. This country has gone through the Great Depression and is struggling now to recover from a long recession.
Many of these moments in history, I’ve only read about in books or watched TV specials on,  but Aunt Lucy actually lived through them.
My mom, the youngest of the 12 Smoot children, said she doesn’t remember the family being poor or different from their neighbors because no one ever went hungry or naked, even during the Great Depression.
Mom said she can recall Aunt Lucy sitting down after a hard day’s work and using feed sacks to make dresses or dish towels. Aunt Lucy used to make sweet cookies, possibly tea cakes that were as big as a saucer. Unfortunately, Aunt Lucy can’t remember the recipe, but I think her oatmeal cookies are the bomb anyway.
Aunt Lucy saw her brothers and fiancé go off to World War II. While her brothers returned, her first love did not.
She married late in life and has no children of her own, but in reality she’s got a ton of children — because most of her brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews have benefited from her wisdom and look to her more as a mother or grandmother than an aunt or sister.
When you think about the way the country and world has changed in the last 99 years, it’s mind-boggling, but she lived it and can tell you about it. With the exception of the forgotten cookie recipe, Lucy is as sharp as a tack.
Don’t let her small stature and gray hair fool you. If you want to play a game of cards with her, be prepared to lose your shirt because she’s one tough bird and often bests much younger family members at playing her favorite card game called Pitch.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen her without a smile on her face and a gleam in her eye.
I’ve asked her the secret to a long life and she said simply, “Do what is right and treat people the way you want to be treated and it all falls into place.”
Now that’s a lesson that is timeless!

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Jamie Baker-Nantz is editor of the Grant County News. She can be reached at (859) 824-3343 or by e-mail at jbakernantz@grantky.com.