Mason student helping Christian Village resident write autobiography

Alex Lisa | Staff Writer 

Though quite a distance away from Mason High School students, old age comes to us all, and along with it a number of challenges. That does not mean, however, that no one can put up a fight and, with a bit of creativity, turn it into something to be appreciated.

The National Arts Honors Society has been volunteering at the Christian Village to do art projects with the elderly for several years. It is through this volunteering that Senior Taylor Kling became friends with 90-year-old Lois Colburn, who uses every opportunity to express herself. As the two became closer, Kling began helping Colburn with one especially unique form of expression: writing an autobiography. Colburn said there are a number of things which contributed to the start of this project, including the desire to preserve her memories even after they have begun to leave her.

Senior Taylor King met 90-year-old Lois Colburn through volunteering with the National Arts Honors Society. King is helping Colburn write an autobiography to document her life experience.

“There are a lot of people my age who don’t have the memory I have,” Colburn said. “I am 90 years old, and I hope to have as clear a mind as I do now for a much longer time, but I also want to make use of my memory while I still have it and get it down onto paper. Or a computer, actually, which I am not computer-literate. That’s why I need  young people like Taylor who’s been so kind and helped me.”

Another important reason that Colburn wants to write her autobiography is to get a lasting message out to her two grandchildren.

Even with hardships that happen at such a young age, you can still have a wealthy and full life.

Lois Colburn

“I have grandchildren who are four years old, and they’ve been in the hospital a lot of their lives,” Colburn said. “So I wanted to make sure they knew that even with hardships that happen at such a young age, you can still have a wealthy and full life — I myself lost my father to illness at age five, and that was a lot to deal with. We don’t get to see each other and I can’t talk to them about this as much as I would like to, so that’s actually why I started thinking about writing this.”

“I have grandchildren who are four years old, and they’ve been in the hospital a lot of their lives,” Colburn said. “So I wanted to make sure they knew that even with hardships that happen at such a young age, you can still have a wealthy and full life — I myself lost my father to illness at age five, and that was a lot to deal with. We don’t get to see each other and I can’t talk to them about this as much as I would like to, so that’s actually why I started thinking about writing this.”

The autobiography itself recounts a number of experiences Colburn has had, including stories about her trips to Europe and reflections on the people she has met.

“My husband and I went to Europe in 1953,” Colburn said. “We rented bikes from England because that’s how you got around back then. In Germany, we met a young woman who came over to borrow our bicycle pump for her bike, but her German bike was large and our pump didn’t work. We wanted to make sure she understood, we wanted to be helpful, and she said why don’t we come over to tea. But this was right after the war, and despite everyone’s hospitality, not everyone had food, so we were worried it would be a lot of trouble. That family wouldn’t hear of it, so we stayed. We sat with them and we listened to Wagner on the radio, and the whole family rode with us on their bicycles down the road, and we stopped and shook hands and they went back home and we went on…We came to a pub eventually and we                                                                                                                                               met yodlers there, and they had us feel their throats while they yodeled and it was so bizarre and loud and good fun. We biked through all of Europe, getting to know people and we have so many stories that are just heartwarming like that.”

Beyond those she met in Europe, Colburn said a woman who made a huge impact on her life was the doctor who helped her with medical issues when she attended the University of Michigan.

“She was so good to people, she would go deliver babies in the home if people couldn’t afford to go to the hospital,” Colburn said. “I knew some other doctors there, male doctors, whom I went to dinner with, and I said ‘tell me about Susan Kennedy,’ and they said ‘she’s the most skilled surgeon you’ll find, but she’s an idiot, because she goes out and does things for free, in the home.’ I think they were the idiots.”

Compared to what was available to her in her time, Colburn said she is excited for where young people today can go, and wishes she had those same chances growing up.

“I love speaking with young people, it invigorates me and helps to keep me thinking clearly, and I think about my grandchildren and want them to know about the opportunity in front of them,” Colburn said. “I think youngsters have so much more opportunity. I think it is a very hard time for young people and also a very exciting time.”

A message Colburn wants to extend both in her autobiography and in person is the need for persistence because every hard moment in life becomes something different down the road.

“When my father passed away, my mother said ‘we’re going to rear four children,’” Colburn said. “She said that to me, a five-year-old, and the way she spoke and carried on, she never let me think we couldn’t succeed in anything. All you really need is brute determination; you never know the incredible people you will meet in your life until you have the chance to look back on it. Many things that weren’t remarkable in the moment became special over time. Really, time just changes everything.”

Photo contributed by Nina Coyle.

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