It seems to me when a person reaches the 100-year mark it warrants a special title. That’s why I’m bestowing the prestigious designation “Matriarch of Metcalfe” on Janet (pronounced Ja-net’) Horne Lanier McLendon. I’m a tad late getting around to it, but I think she’ll be okay with that.
Janet, who turned 100 on July 13th, is a first cousin of my late father-in-law Bennett Horne. They were born in the small south-Georgia town of Metcalfe and both ended up living in nearby Thomasville. I got to know Janet a few years before I married into the Horne family in 1974. She’s celebrated some milestone birthdays since we first met, but her sweet demeanor and spunky attitude are unchanged.
Jane and I went to the nursing home to see her in early August. The first thing she said was, “I’m so glad you brought that good-looking man with you!” I know she’s exaggerating, but it’s the same greeting I’ve loved hearing many times before. Then she asked me if I was still painting.
Several years ago, I gave her a little book titled “Lessons From The Ladder.” It was about painting our house and some of the thoughts I had while perched on the ladder. She’s asked me on multiple occasions if I’ve finished that project. We laughed once again as I confided I still lack the front door. “But I have it on my list of things to do,” I said. “It could happen at any time.”
It was probably a decade ago when Jane and I visited in her home and saw a pink Daisy BB gun propped by the door. “You must be in charge of the Neighborhood Watch,” I surmised. She laughed and told me it was her squirrel gun. “It stings them enough to run them off, but they come right back. That’s about all I can do,” she coyly lamented. “The police don’t like to hear gunfire.”
She was still working in her yard during her early nineties, enjoying gardening and growing blueberries and figs. Her house was in town, but she’s always been a country girl at heart.
I think she moved to Southern Pines assisted living about five years ago. She was around 95 when she decided to let someone else do the cooking. The first time Jane and I went there to visit, I asked if she still had her squirrel gun.
“Don’t tell anybody,” she whispered. “I’m not supposed to have a gun or an electric blanket, but I’ve got both hidden where no one can find them.”
Jane and I made several trips to her apartment. We’d look to see if her car was there before getting out, knowing she drove across town every day to see her brother Olin. Though ten years younger than her, their roles were reversed. He was in the nursing home and she was the visitor.
One day Jane and I saw a different vehicle where Janet usually parked. We were surprised to learn she’d bought a new car. She was 96, I think, and was tickled about its excellent mileage. She enjoyed knowing that a gallon of gas per week would take her everywhere she wanted to go.
When Jane and I visited her in August, her room at the nursing home had a fresh look. For her centennial celebration a granddaughter had decorated the cream-colored walls from floor to ceiling with colorful flowers. She showed us her favorite and told us how much she enjoys looking at them. She asked Jane about our yard, knowing they share a love for working outdoors.
The Thomasville Times was by her chair. “I read it every morning, and I enjoy the sale papers too,” she said with a smile. “I look at what I could buy if I had a car and some money.”
She reads her Bible daily and misses her late pastor, Milton Gardener. He used to stop by her house on his way to work. He drank coffee with Janet and her late husband, Claude, five mornings a week. He kept on visiting long after his retirement. Jane commented how much Milton loved Claude and her. She modestly replied, “I think Milton loved everybody.”
As we were leaving, I promised to bring her some BBs on our next trip. I think they checked her for weapons when she moved in, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she has her pink Daisy beneath the mattress.
“Y’all be careful,” she said as we paused by the door. “I love y’all so much.”
We love you too, Janet. There’s a package of BBs on my desk to prove it, and a certificate showing you have been deemed the “Matriarch of Metcalfe.” I didn’t run that by the mayor, but I’m sure it will be okay. If not, we’ll just hide the certificate with the BB gun.