Find part one of Flory's story here.

Are there other people who have influenced you? People you didn’t want to become or that you looked at as a role model. 

We learn from our students. But one person I’ll mention here as she is on my mind is someone I just spoke with for her 79th birthday. I met her in Austin, Texas. I was 26 and she was 39. I tended to sublet a lot. I didn’t even have a car down there and I wanted to travel during my summers. I was always looking for a new place to live every six months. She was going to rent out a room in her house. I lived with Ann for a few months and we stayed friends when I moved out. There’s a youthfulness about Ann, because she’s always learning new things and challenging herself. 

Also, this. In my early 50s, I didn’t drive on the highways. I saw this blurb in the newspaper about this group “Aging But Dangerous.” Women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and even 80s were going to jump out of an airplane for the first time in their lives. I saw this and I thought,  “Maybe if I jump out of an airplane, I can go back to driving on the highways.” My husband didn’t see the correlation.

I put down the deposit. You had to be at least 50 to join Aging But Dangerous. I was 53. I thought: I want to learn from these women, these older women, who are going to jump out of an airplane for the first time. 

It was a beautiful day and before it was my time to jump, I was terrified. At the time I thought I was more terrified of heights than the highway (thus my reasoning that skydiving would cure my fear of driving the highway.)  My hair was brown back then, and I was impressed by these women with their flowing white hair just beaming as they descended from the sky.

It was tandem skydiving, we were attached to an experienced instructor who would pull the ripcord. Normally, being in a small plane, hearing the acceleration as we rose to 13,000 feet, my heart would have been pumping and I would have felt panicky.  But I’d had a yoga class the day before and I told myself, “Reality is that I’m just sitting on a bench in this plane, I’m just sitting here,” until it came time to jump. Sitting on the edge of the plane, I thought: I don’t know why I am going to throw a perfectly good body out of an airplane. But I wanted to give myself the chance to learn from these older women. And it was one of the best things I have ever done.  The first 10,000 feet you are so still so far from the ground it doesn’t look like it’s getting closer.  It’s just really windy. Then the parachute opens and it’s so peaceful. And when I landed I was so calm; I’d been afraid I might have a terrible panic attack, I chose to face it, and it never happened at all.

My fifties were a favorite decade (maybe the 60s will turn out to be), but it was also hard. I experienced cancer. I decided to run a marathon because of the degree of fitness I lost from cancer and from reconstruction. I said, “I have to do something; I'm going to run a marathon and tell everyone so I have to train.” I ran a slow marathon, but I did recover some fitness and it opened a whole new world of possibility. Friends told me about the YWCA women’s triathlon; that was a new experience for me. Then last October I ran the marathon again… slowly.

Any last thoughts you want to add? 

I’m one of the few currently teaching that experienced some of the history of the 60s, was alive and old enough to be aware. I remember when JFK was assassinated when I was in first grade and when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated when I was in 5th grade. So many things happen and the older you get the more you see connections, globally or even in your own life. All of this helps because it helps me teach parallels. I want to bring the world into my classroom and I want to bring my students into the world. I think the more experiences one has, the more metaphors one has, the more one is able to share, demonstrate perseverance.  It is important, introducing students to ideas of what they are capable of, ideas that might inspire them. 

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