I heard Ruth’s voice first: a concise message in a clear unwavering voice, telling me why she was seeking training in the Gyrotonic method. She’d had two hip replacements, two knee replacements and some back surgery, she said, but was otherwise in good health. She’d been referred by her Certified Advanced Rolfer, Briah Anson. She also mentioned that she was 93 years old. She did not mention her age as a disability or an excuse, but simply stated as a fact. She set the stage for me to do the same.
Still, when Ruth first walked into my studio, I was concerned. She came with her driver and hobbled with a cane. She was bundled up against the Minnesota winter. There were so many layers to remove, boots to take off, that we barely made eye contact for five minutes. I led her over to a stool, ready to catch her if she fell. But, though she walked unevenly, her direction was clear, her pace energetic. When we sat to face each other in the middle of my light filled studio, our eyes finally met. Hers were sharp and sparkling blue. The life force in her was palpable. Her smile was quick.
Every session is an experiment, GYROTONIC® Master Trainer Juergen Bamberger, who has taught the Gyrotonic method for over 25 years, once said to me. Indeed, that is the only way to approach teaching and learning. I did not know what to expect with Ruth. I have never worked with anyone that age. In fact, I’m not sure I have ever held a conversation, certainly not a lucid one, with anyone that old. But Ruth set the stage from her first phone call. I treated her exactly as she showed up to my studio that day: full of vigor, intelligence, focus and determination.
I was in awe of her, and still am, each time she walks into the studio for her weekly sessions.
“You are amazing.”
She smiled politely.
“You don’t know that, do you?” I asked.
“Not really,” she said. “People tell me that I’m their role model, their mentor. But I feel quite ordinary.”
Each week, Ruth seems to grow younger, walking better. Ruth is 93. She is able to sit with more ease on the Tower bench, at one point demonstrating to me how easily she can now swing her leg over the Pulley Tower bench. Watch the video here.
93 is not cute or sweet or sad or anything else. Age is just a number. In Ruth’s case, the number of years she’s been on earth with such strength and light is remarkable. As my own mother, more than 10 years younger than Ruth, struggles with dementia, I hold onto Ruth as an example of aging with grace, courage, clarity and good health.
She plans on getting back on the golf course this spring. From the looks of it, she’s got a mighty swing.