As a former regional and sectional figure skating champion I know a little something about commitment and drive; after all, I have been skating my whole life. Truth be told, I’ve met thousands of people over the years who love/adore the sport and have dreamed of doing the Hamill camel, the axel and other graceful moves that only a figure skater can do. I used to take for granted being able to do them myself, but I’ve learned that for others this ability would be a dream come true. That said, several weeks ago I met a woman that would forever change my opinion on what skating can do for the heart, in a way no former fan, coach or skater had ever done. I became interested in this 64-year-old woman (who, by the way, looked as if she was in her late forties) after I encountered her at the indoor skating rink – I was practicing regaining my double axel jump that has a been on vacation since 1994. Her name is Jeanne and she represents something that has captured my heart.
Learning to skate as an adult, Jeanne has worked extra hard to master her skating moves and she has paid close attention to perfecting her skills. At the end of each season, she writes down notes and refers to them later as needed. Something I never did, by the way – which could explain why that triple lux never worked.
I think of my grandmother at that age who never left the house (unless it was Sunday for church), wore her then-fashionable housedresses at home constantly and her idea of exercise was ironing.
Not Jeanne. She has told me that she has even fallen asleep thinking about gliding, transitioning herself from forward to backward, moving freely and gracefully across the ice. “I could see myself doing it, Mar”. She is a tiny little thing, but her commitment and determination exceed her size two skating skirt. She is proactive about wanting to learn, embraces her skating and finds joy and happiness on the ice. Many people would think anyone over a certain age should slow-down, retire from living, relax – but this amazing woman has single-handedly reshaped my image of “retiree” to become what I now believe what it should be for everyone: active and living their dreams.
In spite of all her successes and hard work on the ice, including a broken shoulder years ago, last Wednesday Jeanne took a fall that fractured her left hip in three places. Moments before she was ready to get off the ice she attempted one more lunge… and fell.
I visited Jeanne yesterday after her surgery and found her sitting up with make-up on and surrounded by her lovely family. It did not take me long to tap into my hospital decor mode, so I decided the day before I would make her lunch and upgrade the overall hospital experience by packing a tablecloth, good china, linen, silver and fine stemware. The finishing touches were some of the Pilgrim roses from my garden arranged into a tight little bouquet in an espresso cup.
Jeanne enjoyed her roasted vegetables, lemon chicken, and penne pasta rather than the lunch of the day: dried out turkey with mashed potato. Yuck. Now to some my lunch decor and menu may be a little over the top, or “OTT” as I like to refer to it, but for others, I hope it inspires you to think outside the box when in a hospital setting. And personally, that’s when I think we need it most.
Jeanne took a fall, had surgery, and yet her spirit and passion for her skating go untouched by the setback. Thank you, Jeanne, for your relentless drive to skate. You teach us all that no matter what our age is there’s an opportunity for all of us to keep dreaming.
And if someday my obituary reads, “Mar Jennings, TV host, lifestyle expert, author and former figure skating champion, slips on ice today while breaking in his new Gucci shoes at the ripe old age of 90”, well at least I will be doing (and wearing!) something I loved.