Elda, 102: “I Couldn’t Be Happier With My Life”
To celebrate Service95’s 100th issue, we interviewed a group of very special people – all over 100 years old – inviting them to share their wisdom. Here, 102-year-old Elda shares her story…
Elda is among a rare breed of people who can say that they have born witness to a whole century, yet she is rather modest about that feat. She still lives alone, thanks to the support of her daughter – who she says is “worth 10” – and her son-in-law, and is an active member of her community. She recalls a memory from her childhood: her grandfather bidding her farewell in Naples, southern Italy, waving a white handkerchief as her ship set sail on a seven-day journey across the Atlantic to the United States. She recalls it taking some time to realise that it isn’t him, but rather her who was moving farther away with each passing moment. Montrose went on to marry a man she met at school – the marriage lasted over six decades until his death in 2010 – and worked as a secretary in the automotive industry. She speaks with Service95 from her home to share some of her insights on life and longevity…
What has been the happiest moment of your life so far?
Oh gosh, I’ve had so many. Probably the birth of my daughter. That would be the most important, but there’s been many moments in my life. My life has been one happy moment, to tell you the truth.
What brings you joy every day?
Getting up every morning and thanking God for everything He’s done for me. I still live a very normal, happy, healthy life. I couldn’t be happier with my life. I think the thing that brings me the most happiness is my family, my friends, my neighbours. I just love living every day.
Have you had a lifelong hobby?
My interests have been so varied, but up until very recently I think crossword puzzles were probably my best hobby. And bridge!
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Happy, healthy, and I don’t want to say industrious, but I’ve never shied away from work.
Why do you think you have had such a long life?
I never even gave it a thought, I just lived every day. I truly don’t have a reason. I can’t tell you why. I just lived every day and, all of a sudden, here I am, 102 plus. I don’t know how I got here, but for some reason God still wants me here.
What is the wildest, most surprising thing you have done?
Oh gosh. You know I’ve never really done anything wild. Even surprising. I just kind of let life come along as it comes along. I live a really mundane life, sweetheart. It’s been busy in a sort of easy, everyday kind of way – nothing overexciting. I just can’t explain how I even got to be 102.
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What do you think is the biggest misconception about aging?
I think people expect us as weco get older to get dementia, but that’s not always true. In fact, my daughter said to me yesterday, “Do you always have to be right?” because I remembered something that she didn’t. I remembered that my great granddaughter was having a recital this weekend, and [my daughter] didn’t remember. I had mentioned it to her, so she called and said, “Do you always have to be right?”
What advice would you give your younger self?
To just do whatever I did up until now. It seems to have worked out fine. I’ve been happy all my life. I had a wonderful married life. I had a husband that I couldn’t ask more of. He died in 2010, so that’s been, what, 13 years. I still miss him, but I thank God for him every day. I have relatives that are so close to us – of course, most of them have now passed away – but I just couldn’t ask for more of life than I’ve had.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your life?
I could laugh about it and say golf. I was horrible at it, but I loved it. [Or] the English language, because I came from Italy. As a matter of fact, I remember being in kindergarten – I was seven years old, but I started school in kindergarten. The first American English word that I learned – and I can still in my mind’s eye see this – is the kindergarten teacher pointing to an orange and saying ‘colour’ and ‘fruit’. So ‘orange’ was the first word in English that I learned, and now that I’m telling you this, orange is my favourite colour. I have everything in orange: sweaters, clothes. It is my favourite colour, but I never thought about it.
If you could go back, would you change anything?
Not one bit.
Suzana Vuljevic is a culture writer, editor and translator, whose work has appeared in Undark, Artforum, Eurozine, and more