Excerpt from the book “They Call Me Orange Juice” by Audrey McDonald Atkins
She was almost ninety-nine when she died. Almost.
She attributed her longevity to rain. Not watching it. Getting wet in it.
I thought she would live forever. I think she did too, asking me once, “How old was Methuselah really?”
You see, Granny firmly believed that if you got wet in the first May rain, you would not be sick for the rest of the year. It seems to be true.
Granny did not diet; dessert was mandatory. Granny did not exercise although she worked in her yard daily. She did not take medicine, not an aspirin, not a spoonful of Creomulsion.
There was no tai chi, tae bo, kwan do, CrossFit, or karate. No zumba, yoga, or Sweatin’ with the Oldies. No treadmill, no recumbent, no elliptical. Certainly no running. Why run somewhere when you can get in your big, long Chrysler car and drive?
She didn’t need it. For every year, as the fifth month began, we would perch at the ready waiting for a gray cloud to darken the blue South Alabama sky, listening for a distant rumble of thunder. Is the breeze picking up? Does it feel more humid?
Then as soon as the first drops began to fall, we would race outside and get wet in the first magical, mystical, healing May rain.
Now to be sure, Granny was no hard-bodied hottie. Not in her youth; not in her so-called golden years. If you subscribe to her notion of the power of precipitation, you must be well aware of the consequences and willing to accept them.
You might see a slight jiggle when you lift your arm. (Gasp!) There might be a dimple or two in your thigh area. (Egads!) You might not have pecs. (Ladies, not really the most attractive look anyway.)
And you just might have to come to terms with looking just how you look, and being just fine with it. (Oh, the horror!)
Make no mistake. Granny prided herself on being well-dressed, neat, proper. But Granny didn’t sweat a laugh line. She didn’t paint her face all up, although a little powder and lipstick were de rigueur. She didn’t dye her snowy hair, white since her late thirties.
And she did exercise. She exercised her mind. She read a great deal, but the Mobile Press-Register and the Bible she read every day. She was a cutthroat bridge player. Strategy. Subtlety. She worked crosswords and find-a-words. She conversed. She questioned. She believed.
So maybe the secret to longevity is not in a few drops of water from the sky, but in the contentment that comes with believing those drops will make everything all right — at least for one more year.
Either way, this year, as I do every year, when I hear the first distant clap of thunder, I will go stand outside and wait. Wait for the rain. Wait for contentment.
Thank you, Granny.
Born and raised in Citronelle, Atkins shares stories about growing up and living in the South in her book, “They Call Me Orange Juice,” and at her blog folkwaysnowadays.com.