Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Perty Gerty

If I had to watch daily viewings of The Price is Right, you can be dadgum sure that after a week I'd be begging you to call Dr. Kevorkian on my behalf.

Well, Gertrude Baines is 115 and has watched TPIR every day for years. Even though that young whippersnapper, Bob Barker has retired.

Oh, and if you make Gertrude some bacon, make sure it's extra crispy. That's how she likes it.

Baines is a Georgia native and turned a century-plus-fifteen on Monday, in Los Angeles. I'll save you the math: she was born in 1894. Two centuries ago.

Her most serious injury or affliction? Just some arthritis. She told MSNBC that she never smoke or drank, and never "fooled around."

So SHE's the one!

Maybe her long life can also be attributed to staying out of the political fray. Last November, Baines voted for Barack Obama -- some 48 years after casting her last vote in a presidential election, for John Kennedy.

Baines is the reigning Guiness book record holder for oldest living person. She achieved the distinction on January 2 of this year, when the previous record holder had had enough.

Baines was born to former slaves in '94, less than thirty years after President Lincoln was killed. Do you remember 1980? Well, that's the length of time that passed from Lincoln's death to Baines's birth.

I'm 45, which was Baines's age in.....1939! The year that my mother was born (sorry, mom; the cat's outta the bag).

Gertrude Baines was my age seventy years ago.

Goodness gracious.


Gertrude Baines, 115


Of course, I'd like to think I have seven decades left on this Earth. Maybe by then I'll have learned to pick my socks off from the floor.

I come from good stock, so there's hope. My mother's side of the family is Finnish, and they congregated in the Upper Peninsula -- taking it over, really. Most of the clan settled in a tiny town called Watton, about 20 miles from L'Anse. Where's L'Anse? About 50 miles west of Marquette. After that you're on your own.

Anyhow, those folks all seemed to live well into their 80s and often into their 90s. And these are people who worked in copper mines and killed their own dinner and went No. 1 and No. 2 in outhouses. Grandma's going to be 93 in May, and save her legs betraying her, mom says she's fit as a fiddle internally.

Grandpa passed in 2005 at age 96. Still young enough to be Gertrude Baines's son.

Or maybe here's another reason the Finns from up north lived so long.

They like their saunas in the UP. And it's not "sawna", like the city folk say. It's "sowna", with the "ow" part pronounced like when you get hurt.

Ow! Sowna!

Like that.

A wintertime tradition is to go into the sauna, which is separate from the house proper, and after spending some time steaming yourself, running out and jumping into the snow.

Sans clothing.

That can't possibly be good for you, yet that's what the Finns did. And look how long they lived.

So Happy Birthday, Gertrude Baines. You just turned 115. You watch The Price is Right every day.

I'm not sure which is more amazing.

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