Many months ago, I wrote about the importance of staying engaged regardless of age, station in life, or background (Retirement is not an option). Staying engaged means staying relevant. It means being part of the world around you instead of watching it pass by. It means learning and embracing and moving forward. Age means nothing–I’ve seen young people check out and older people become masters of a new universe–but attitude means everything.

The corollary to staying engaged is never give up. I used one of my grandmothers as an example in my earlier post, so I’ll use my other grandmother in this one.

Some time in the 24 hours following my birthday visit earlier this week (see Taking time), my grandma fell and broke her hip. I’ll spare you the details, but for a 98-year-old woman, this kind of injury lends itself to a lot of speculation about the future, and the options don’t look all that good.

Unless you’re my grandma.

Faced with weeks and possibly months of painful rehab or being bed/wheelchair-ridden for the rest of her life, Grandma didn’t bat an eye. “I don’t care how long it takes,” she said emphatically. “I want to be normal again.”

In case you missed it above, Grandma is 98 years old. No one would question her if she said she didn’t want to spend a significant portion of her future learning to walk again. Her swarm of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren–almost 40 strong–would gladly handle her logistics of movement. She has no shortage of support. Yet she has chosen to tackle a difficult project and move herself forward.

I don’t know whether she even liked the man, but clearly she has espoused Winston Churchill’s attitude of “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.” And let me tell you, she has a heap of both.

There are days when I want nothing more than to retreat, to curl up inside myself and withdraw from the world around me. That’s a lot harder to do with examples like my grandma. We have to stay engaged and keep on keeping on.

Oh, and did I mention that she went through the surgery awake?

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