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Living Without Fear: Meet Anne Boykin

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

How would you describe yourself?

Early and overdressed! Kidding. Lately, I have become reclusive due to health reasons. I prefer to think of it as eccentric. But even still, I continue to be a woman of all colors, creative in everything I do, and an overactive conversationalist and storyteller. (If you’re coming to visit me, you better carve out some time. I have a lot to say!) I wouldn’t say that I am deeply religious, although I am deeply spiritual and maintain close connections with my late mother and daughter.

Being a recluse allows me to spend time writing, designing, publishing, and entertaining. In my 74 years on this earth, I have gone from rags to riches and back, only to find a happy medium. I have cheated death for the last 3-1/2 years and through it all, have maintained my deeply morbid wry sense of humor. So far so good.

What is your proudest achievement thus far in life?

Professionally, I am most proud of the 23 historical interpretive panels along the Lynn Stuart Pathway at Veterans Park in College Station, Texas, that I designed and were installed in 2010. The panels are featured in a walking path through a series of 18 memorials chronicling the wars in which U.S. soldiers served. Each site includes a granite marker, a steel bench, a life-size bronze statue of a common soldier, and one or more 2’ x 3’ historical interpretive panels. The project took nearly 18 months. Many nights I worked into the wee hours, often touching up or repairing an old photo of a veteran long since gone. I can tell you that I was not alone on those nights. It was a welcome presence and I felt comforted knowing that my work would ensure they were never forgotten.

Personally, I am most proud of my children and the adults they became. They are both most successful in their careers while maintaining meaningful personal and family lives, although my daughter passed away at 48.

What is the best thing about being an older woman?

Anne with a history panel for the pathway
Anne with a history panel for the pathway

At the risk of sounding flippant, I recently discovered that I have the power to have: No fear, no filters, and nothing to lose. My focus for the last 3-1/2 years has been my declining health. To make the best use of my remaining years, I am my own advocate when it comes to matters of health. I will not live in fear of those in the medical profession. I will demand better Americans with Disabilities Act facilities in all the offices, labs, and buildings I must access. I will strive to make more medical services available in home or via online services. Currently, I have a lot of in-home healthcare as well as regular visits from a physician’s assistant representing my primary care physician. I have Telemed appointments with my urologist as well as my hematologist. My home health care nurse is the best. I have followed her through several job changes over the last 3-1/2 years. She is amazing! All these services are covered by Medicare and my supplemental insurance.

What has been the most challenging thing about growing older?

Anne as a Girl
Anne as a Girl

Becoming mobility impaired, unable to drive, and dependent on an oxygen concentrator 24/7 has taken away a lot of my physical freedoms. Often, it is very difficult to find affordable transportation in a vehicle that isn’t too tall or too low or hasn’t adequate headroom. But thank goodness there are aids like Zoom and FaceTime that allow me to participate and engage in meetings, conversations, and especially, visits with my family.

At the same time, I am striving to live independently while living alone. There are few things I can’t do. Most of the time, I am limited by upper cabinets and upper shelves. I have grabbers in almost every room of my house. I have not fallen in over eight years. I attribute that to the fact that I am incredibly slow and deliberate in every step I take.

I do tend to impose challenges on myself just so I can feel like the gracious hostess I used to be. I can still cook for a crowd, one of my favorite things to do. Recently, I served an Italian dinner for 10. Last week, I made a cioppino for a friend whose sister is in hospice. To celebrate my birthday, I am hosting a group of 12 for 12 Boy Curry. I will have to rest for a few days afterward but the joy I have in seeing everyone, hearing the conversations and the laughter, will carry me forward and energize me for the next event. In preparing these dinners I draw on my Italian/Sicilian and West Texas heritage. My Cajun mother-in-law taught me to make roux and gumbo with the best of them.

What has been a life-changing moment?

I have had four life-changing moments:

  1. Losing my husband as he walked out on the eve of our 25th wedding anniversary. Devastating then, but I would never have become the strong independent woman that I am today if he had not left.

  2. Losing my daughter-in-love on May 16, 2012, just two days after Mother’s Day, to sepsis, leaving her soulmate, my son, a widower, and my three grandchildren, ages 8, 10, and 12, motherless.

  3. Losing my daughter to neuroendocrine cancer on May 19, 2019, one week after Mother’s Day. How does one describe having your heart ripped out of your body and returned broken and empty? I still struggle with the yearly anniversaries: Tamara’s birthday, the day of her passing, and the days of her two memorial services, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. She was my mentor, my muse, and my motivation.

  4. Being rushed to the emergency room and staring death in the face on November 23, 2019, when my body began shutting down battling Klebsiella pneumonia, three transient ischemic attacks, two bleeding ulcers, sepsis, and both kidneys full of staghorn calculi kidney stones. Every night I prayed that God would take me away from the nightly horrors of intensive care unit delirium. To add insult to injury, the physical therapists at the hospital dropped me three times and crushed my tailbone. That alone was 18 months in healing and still is an ongoing issue.

What's one thing you've become more passionate about as you've aged?

My passion for history and writing has taken over my thoughts at every waking moment. I sometimes dream about writing the perfect paragraph and wake up believing I did. I strive to record my stories and the stories of my family so our history will live on long after I am gone.

What is one thing you want to do in this season of life?

I’m doing it! I’m spending quality time with my family and friends. I’m writing every day. And I’m constantly working to preserve history, whether it is area history, military history, or family history.

What would you tell your younger self about aging?

The obvious answer here is: take better care of yourself, eat the right things, exercise, yada, yada, yada. I’ll let others say those words. I obviously have not done all the right things. In spite of not growing old that well, I have had – and am still having – a very full and enriched life.

What's one thing you've left behind?

I’ve left behind my failures. I can’t fix them now or ever. But they can certainly become great and fascinating material for a novel.

What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?

And, to think, she doesn’t look a day over 95!” Seriously, I want to be remembered for my work in historic preservation in the Brazos Valley. And, I hope, my son will say I was a good mother to him and to his late sister. I hope my grandchildren will say I was a good “GrAnne.” I hope my friends will say I was there for them. Hopefully, everyone will say I made a difference. They will probably say that my obituary was over the top and too long. They will say that even in the end, at her own funeral, she managed to show off her love for alliteration with the mantillas, margaritas, and mariachi!

What's your best health tip as you grow older?

I’m the last person to ask. Drink water! Lots of water! And, no, coffee doesn’t count. Neither does any other dark liquid. Not even tea. No carbonated beverages. Water does a body good! It’s good for your skin, as well. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!

What's your best beauty tip as you grow older?

Never try to look younger; grow old gracefully. There’s an expiration date on everything and everyone. Moisturize! Moisturize! Moisturize! On the occasion of her 40th birthday, a friend of mine said, “I guess now I will have to start caring for my skin.” I was aghast! When I was in the sixth grade, my mother discovered that I had been putting on makeup once I got to school. She sat me down and said, “If you’re going to insist on putting on makeup, you’re going to learn how to take it off.” She taught me about washing and cleansing my face, as well as moisturizing. I’m so glad she did.

Who is a person you admire and why?

Anne with her mother and sister
Anne with her mother and sister

My late mother, Rosemary (DePasquale) Boykin. She graduated from Southern Methodist University at the age of 20 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Arts and minors in German and Medical Arts. She met my father on a blind date. He had returned from World War II and was finishing his studies at Texas A&M University. Six months later he proposed. She loved my father with her whole body, heart, and soul. Even when she was in the hospital, she always put on a bit of lipstick before he came in the door.

They were a team. She followed him and supported him all 63 years of their marriage through good times and bad and literally to the ends of the earth, living overseas off and on for nearly 25 years in the Middle East and Southern Africa. No, they were not missionaries. It took its toll on her. But she never faltered, never wavered, never complained. No matter what Daddy’s assignment was, Mother found a humanitarian project to work on. Daddy liked to joke that he was most often known as Rosemary’s husband, even though he may be writing agricultural policy in a Third World country.

Mother mastered the task of printing out tests one at a time on hectograph gel, then mimeograph machines or multilith masters. She mastered Speedball nibs and India ink, advancing to typing and later computers. She had an email account before I did and was a whiz on her Mac computer. When she was frustrated with Microsoft Word, she made her way up the telephone chain of command (saying she was his archrival Tom Gunter’s mother-in-law) and spoke to Bill Gates, chiding him for the difficulties of the program. Gates was most gracious and found a tech support person to help her. (Note: Tom, who worked at Motorola, really was Bill’s arch-enemy.)

My mother also was a gracious hostess and taught me well. She was an artist, a pianist, and an amazing seamstress who sewed matching squaw dresses for my sister and me as well as for herself when my parents belonged to a square dance club.

What is one of your favorite resources (book, podcast, movie, website, etc.) that you want to share?

Project HOLD is the City of College Station’s Historic Online Library Database. I managed this database for 6-1/2 years (2005-2011) and continue to contribute to its contents. It’s free, available to anyone, and houses hundreds of thousands of pages containing photographs, documents, maps, and memorabilia of the history of the Brazos Valley.

On the downside, it’s not easy to navigate and can be very frustrating to use. But there are hidden gems of history not documented anywhere else in the world. I continue to be a resource for anyone wanting to navigate its pages. Email me at the website in the last answer and I will gladly help.

Describe the rest of your life in five words.

Writing, Publishing, Creating, Loving, Living

How can people connect with you? is a work in progress. Left-Write Ink was begun nearly 50 years ago as a freelance calligraphy business. “Left” because I’m left-handed. “Write” because, well, I write. And “Ink” because I’ll never be big enough to be incorporated. I met a friend in an AOL Austin chat room years ago who was Good Right Arm, a commercial art and advertising business. His first client was Michael Dell. We still laugh at the chance meeting and remain friends to this day. My website markets my publications as well as those of my late parents, my brother, and my late daughter.

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2 comentarios

Dorian Martin
Dorian Martin
27 mar 2023

Thank you, Anne, for sharing your insights. You're such an inspiration for us all. Thank you for embracing life and living fearlessly!

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Thank you for the opportunity to express my inner thoughts on topics that are not always easy to address. This gave me some valuable time to reflect on where I have been and where I need to go for the rest of my life. Anne

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