The lady in the fancy pink suit and fancy blue top hat trimmed in pink caught my attention as she entered the fellowship hall where I was enjoying a pre-Sunday School breakfast with my grandparents at Tenth Street Baptist Church. The lady’s smile was bright, her presence as luminous as sunshine. I kept my eye on her as I nibbled on a biscuit stuffed with scrambled eggs and sipped from a cup of brew.
Age had clearly bent her spine, but it seemed to me that it had also strengthened her spirit. She seemed extraordinarily graceful. I enjoyed her presence without saying a word, until I overheard her conversation with a much younger woman delivering her meal.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call you back Wednesday. I was working, and figured if I didn’t call you, you’d understand that I must have gotten busy,” I overheard the senior sister explain. The younger woman smiled, offered an easy pardon, and was on her way.
“Excuse me,” I said to the senior sister, unable to quietly admire her any longer. “Where do you work? I couldn’t help overhearing you.”
“I work three days a week at Sid’s Tax Service,” she said, smiling proudly. “I call people and let them know when their money’s in. I enjoy meeting people there,” she added. “Everybody looks at me like ‘what are you doing still working?’ I look at them like, ‘I’m not a person to sit home and look at TV. I’ve got to keep moving’.”
“May I ask your age?” I said, balancing respect and awe.
She’s 89. Her name is Doris Davis, she told me. She retired from the Small Business Administration in 1969 (not long after I was born!). She retired as a statistical assistant, she said.
Ms. Davenport seemed to me a living lesson in endurance. By the time I was invited to sit in on Sunday School at the church, I felt like God had already given me a personal lesson for the day: Keep on keeping on.
I watched Ms. Davenport throughout the day, admiring her easy and constant smile and her comfort with the small children in the church. She joined her church family for a Sunday School celebration after the sermon, and then went on her way.
I called her later for more details of her work history, as I am in prayer and meditation regarding my own career, which is in some sort of transition I don’t understand. I saw in her evidence of God’s promise that things do work out. She retired from her first career, and went on to enjoy another one. She is still happily working well into her golden years. I love it!
After retiring from federal government, she went to work for H&R Block. She retired from that job when the commute became too much. Soon after her second retirement, she was recommended for a job opening at the tax office, where she had been taking her taxes for years. They hired her full-time, but she later requested part-time hours, feeling herself aging.
“I was getting up in the years. So, I went part-time,” she explained when I called her a week later for more details. She actually works three days a week only during the tax season now. She works one day a week off-season. But on her off days she’s likely to join an activity at Tenth Street Baptist Church, where she has been a member since 1975.
She asked why I seemed so fixated on her, and I tried my best to explain that I found her presence extraordinary, and further admired her style. The lady is quite fashionable. She said people compliment her on her outfits often. “I love clothes,” she said. “I like to look nice. Just because I’m old doesn’t mean I can’t look good!”
Sonsyrea Tate Montgomery is a freelance writer and the author of “Little X: Growing Up in the Nation of Islam, and “Do Me Twice: My Life After Islam.”
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