Celebrating the Women Elders in my Life on Valentine’s Day

Life did not just start for my Aunt Dot Lachina at age 75 but it sure picked up speed, literally. Up to that point, she was busy taking care of her own children, then grandchildren, then her mother, who died at the lovely old age of 102. Dot managed to get in a thrilling roller coaster ride every summer, and the wilder the better- upside down, feet dangling, first car always. So when she was finally free to live a more adventurous life and no one depended on her to stay safe, she notched it up.

When her daughter, Linda announced that she was going sky diving, Dot said, “I’m in!” She loved it! She rolled out of that airplane attached to her jump master and was thrilled to death. Not scared a bit. That started it. A few years later, Linda announced, “I’m going zip lining,” Dot once again quickly chimed, “I’m in!”

Dot sailed off the platform, first time wearing shorts since sky diving, and screamed for joy, as she sped across the canyons and gorges. Oh, to soar like a bird! Zip lining makes it possible for us to feel that unbelievable thrill.

So my Aunt Dot inspired me to seek out zip lining opportunities in Pennsylvania and turn my own son, Bryce onto the thrill. There are sixteen different locations in our state to enjoy this recreational pastime, but Laurel Highlands is a particular hot spot, sporting three separate opportunities.

These experiences fall into two categories- plain pure zipping, from one platform/tree to another, and Canopy Challenge Tours, where you maneuver through a series of obstacles and usually incorporate a few shorter zips. The later can be quite freaky, forcing you to conjure up a greater amount of courage and requires some balance and skill. These courses  incorporate shorter zips but have swinging logs, cat walks, cargo nets  etc. to negotiate up in the canopy.

The zips range from not needing to do anything but have fun and scream, to aiding in the breaking procedure. There is always a back- up break and a human being on the far side to assist but some courses need you to participate more than others, but these are also more rewarding.

Ohiopyle has a Zip Line Adventure Park with crazy challenging obstacles like walking on separate individual narrow swinging planks 25 feet high.

Nemacolin has only one zip, but it is 1060 feet long, the second longest in the state, at 300 foot elevation, speeding some folks up to 60 MPH. (The longest is with Kittatinny Ziplines which speeds you across the Delaware River at 60 MPH for 3,000 feet at 150 feet high!) They also the Fat Bird Canopy which is situated 40 feet up in the sky.

Our favorite, however is at Seven Springs Resort. Start out by doing the Screaming Hawk Zipline Course. This adrenalin-filled ride takes you 2,000 total feet as you zig zag from platform to platform all the way down the open mountain.  But the cream of the crop is the Laurel Ridge Canopy Tour featuring 10 zips that total 7,000 feet!

Bryce loved the zip line experience almost as much as my Aunt Dot did. It’s a thrill that does not require skill nor taking any class. To have the chance to fly like a raptor for a small amount of money is an experience no one should miss in life.

My Aunt Dot just informed me, at 81 years old, she’s signing up for whitewater rafting to add to her bucket list. Some of us have to wait late to get the life that we dreamed of.  But if she is anything like her Mama, she’s got twenty more years to be an adrenalin junkie!


(a version of this will appear in the upcoming issue of Pennsylvania Magazine)

This is a piece I wrote about my Grandmom Ross, who was my Aunt Dot’s mother. She died at the ripe age of 102, just went into her bed because she was tired. She was surrounded by her grandchildren and great grandchildren as they sang Bobby Vinton songs to her.


 Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of driving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming, WOW! What a ride!



My children and I are driving in the car with my 100-yr old grandmother when I become frustrated behind a slow vehicle. She says, “It’s OK Cindy, we have all the time in the world.” Personally, I feel pressed for time with her. My own parents died young and my children never knew them. I want to make sure the same thing doesn’t  happen with their great-grandmother.

When my grandmother turned 99, I woke up and realized she wasn’t going to live forever, so we started hanging out with this centenarian. My children and I take her to BINGO!, the mall, the Pagoda to see the city lights, and made fausnaughts. We play 500 Rummy and she teasingly asks the kids if they wanted to cheat. We take her to Longwood Gardens, and her feisty fingers itch to pick a flower. My husband says, “You’ll spend the next 100 years in jail!” When we take her to the cemetery to visit my parents’ graves, she exclaims, “Look at how beautiful the tombstones are all lined up so perfectly,” My kids whisper to me, “Grandmom finds beauty everywhere.”

I recently began to see how much she had to teach us on how to live long and happily. And I started asking questions about her life, hoping to know her better.


Her parents met on a boat coming from Europe- her mother from Germany, her father from Poland. She was one of 16 children. She quit school in the 4th grade and helped support the family by ironing at home. She entered the work world at age 14, after her parents died. When I appear shocked, she replies, “I thought it was normal.”

All through her life, she has learned to make the best of things. Her husband, Joe, died almost 50 years ago, and she has lived alone ever since, outliving all her siblings and most of her children. She is the landlady of her apartment house in a rough section of Reading. In her elderly years, a wounded man, moaning and bleeding from bullet holes crawled into her vestibule and woke her up one night. She was also startled another evening by thieves trying to crowbar her stained glass transom window out of her front door. Fear never entered into the equation. Her family would like to see her live somewhere “safer” with company, but this has been her home of over 50 years and she’s fine here alone.

Anna fell down her open wooden cellar steps one day, and no one was there to help. Her chunky high heels hooked on a step, and left her hanging face down. She laughed with tears streaming down her face at her silly predicament, then muttered, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph help me.” Her heels “miraculously” let go, and she bounced down the remaining steps to the cellar floor, no bodily harm done.

Her resourcefulness knows no bounds. One time, she was heating up chicken soup in a frying pan over her toaster! Her gas range had not worked for days and she was waiting for the repairman. But she wanted hot soup (rather lukewarm) and this was the only way she could get it. “It’s OK,” she replies when I act alarmed. “I live alone and I have to do what I need to do to take care of myself.”

She’s still a looker at her age, for every day of her life, she’s worn nylon stockings, a dress and has never gone out the door without lipstick. She has NEVER worn pants. “My mother taught me to dress like a lady,” and puts on a hairpiece of white curls, (and until recently, high heels), every morning. When I visit, she regularly files through her dress closet, pulling out a tailored beaded dress or a well-made pair of patent leather heels, (she has no place to wear them anymore), for our sizes are similar.

Part of her good looks is because of her fine health, as she’s never been on medication until recently. She drinks a glass of red wine every night, has never been afraid of hard work (until lately, she got down on her hands and knees to scrub her floor), and takes care of her spiritual health by praying voraciously. At 100, she still feels “too young” to use a wheelchair, a walker, a cane or even a hearing aid.

On one of my last visits, she remarks when she saw my hair tied back, revealing my graying temples, “Why Cindy, I believe you’re getting gray.”

“No Grandmom, I’m getting white, but I’m not ready to dye it yet.”

To that she replies, “Oh, I’m not ready to die yet either!”


These  two women taught me much on how to live life, as did my own mother. They taught me these things, like Marianne Williamson… Every woman who is a queen simply knew she could be one and everyone else is still pretending she can’t. That’s all that separates the queen from the slavegirls: a shift in consciousness from denial to acceptance of personal power.  

And this one l like …Women keep talking about human connections because we are coded to do so. We came into the world with the memory in our soul that this is our function here. It is not our weakness, our neurosis, or our addiction. It is our strength. And when we are denied the power of a valid voice, it in not only we but the whole world that suffers. 

Just some stuff I’ve been thinking about and dealing with lately. God Bless the women in our lives, on this Valentine’s Day and everyday.



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4 thoughts on “Celebrating the Women Elders in my Life on Valentine’s Day Leave a comment

  1. Another good one, Cindy.

    I’ve been zipping in Costa Rica and weather-cancelled in Ecuador, but hadnt followed the sport’s explosion in PA. If they let me spreadeagle and “fly,” I am up for it ASAP in warm weather.

    Stay out there

    ~ John

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