Mary Lankford grew up in in North Texas which means that, among other things, she’s as blunt as a blue norther coming through Dallas in the dead of night.
‘I grew up in Denton and married a man who was in the Air Force and we lived all over the world,” she answers when asked about her early life. “He joined American Airlines and we lived in the Dallas area, but I got tired of answering phone calls from his girlfriends so I divorced him.”
That’s Texas truth right there, ya’ll.
Life has never been boring for Lankford, who has had experiences as diverse as the geography and culture of her Lone Star State. She’s been a librarian, an educational administrator, a wife, a mother, and a published author in her 84 years.
And that honesty doesn’t go away when she’s talking about pain and suffering, which is what a lot of 2016 was for her.
“Last year was pretty horrendous,” Lankford says. “I lost my husband, I lost my house, and I lost my puppies.” Lankford’s husband John, who she had lived in Lakeway with, passed away. Her children were concerned about her living alone and asked her to consider a retirement community; they also took the steps towards the painful decision to give her dogs away for fear she would trip on them and get hurt in her new place.
“I felt like my whole life was going down the tubes,” she said. “Everyone except me was deciding where I should be living.”
But being blunt also means admitting to one’s mistakes, and that’s exactly what Lankford does when she talks about her first nine months at the Conservatory at Alden Bridge.
“I got here last May, and I’ve really loved it,” she beams. “It’s wonderful to be taken care of. Everyone on the staff here has been splendid. I like my apartment, I’ve got maid service once a week, and the food is really outstanding. I’m not a gourmet, but I was a good cook and I’m very happy with the food.”
After leaving Captain Girlfriend behind, Lankford got into the education business as a librarian in a school district outside of Dallas.
‘They didn’t even have a school library when I got there,” she reflects. ‘I worked for 30 years there and loved every minute of it. I eventually became the director of library services for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) but they didn’t like me much because I was very critical of how they did things. I was setting up libraries in other schools but they didn’t want to give me any funding for it.”
So taken with books was Lankford that she began writing them for children in the 1990s. She had several published showcasing the way children around the world celebrate holidays and play games in different ways.
The books provided Lankford a marvelous outlet from her library years and a great way to give something back to the kids who had meant so much to her during her time in education.
When Lankford moved into the Conservatory at Alden Bridge, she had her early struggles like most people, but soon found her preconceived notions of the community were keeping her from enjoying it.
“When I moved in, i was like most people and tried to bring too many things. I thought it would be like living in a nursing facility, but it’s not...it’s wonderful,” she says. “The tone of this place is very positive. They know your name, and they make everything very convenient for you. There’s a beauty shop on site, it’s right around the corner from a shopping area, and my doctor and the bank are over there too. I still drive my car and there’s not a thing I need that’s not here or isn’t with two minutes away.”
Lanford asked for a two-bedroom apartment so she could make one room an office and keep on writing. But she confesses that the abundance of activities have given her a touch of the good kind of writer’s block.
“I have a couple of friends who I have lunch with and I do aerobic swimming, I’ve been doing it for years,”she says with a smile. “I’ve just been lazy.”
For newcomers facing the same daunting process that she went through a year ago, Lankford has some sage wisdom about adjusting to a new home.
“If you’re living this long and you want to be happy in your later years, know that this place could not be doing a better job. It’s a positive place to be.”