Ethel Stockton, D.E.P.
I had a customer in the bookshop here one time, who — looking for “local” books about Mazatlán — was thumbing though Ethel Stockton’s “Old” novels. The customer thought it was “cool” that a “little old lady” was writing novels. I had to correct her. Ethel Stockton was a lady. And she was old. But until a recent illness forced her to return to her native Seattle, nobody in Mazatlán would have thought of her as a “little old lady” — that sounds like Tweety Bird’s Gwanny!. Ethel Stockton was something much finer… a tough old broad living abroad.
Having written a couple of “how to” books prior to moving to Mexico in 2002, Stockton was, in some ways, following in the great tradition of Vasco de Quiroga. The 16th century Spanish jurist — like Stockton — came to Mexico mostly to live on a retirement income, but, living to an advanced age, built a new career based not only on his previous training and skills, but on his openness to what was new in the world, and in what the “New World” had to teach him. Quiroga would become Bishop of Michoacán in his late sixties, and spend the next thirty years working to re-invigorate Purépecha culture.
Stockton was a bit older than Quiroga when she came to Mexico, and her goals were more modest, but there was a re-invention and rejuvination:
Wow! I discovered there was Life after 80. I found a ME I had not known existed. It was the happy me, the laughing me, the loving me I had always wanted to be. When I arrived in Mexico, at age 86, to live alone, far from family and friends, with only myself to rely on, Life was there, waiting. It showed me the wonder of myself and my world. It taught me to be ME.
And, at the age of 92, to publish her first novel… “Old is a Four-Letter Word”. Followed by “Older Is Better”, “Not Too Old” and “Old Fashioned”, the novels follow the ups and downs of the life of Analiz Victoria Fallon, a “mature heroine” who could not have been imagined by a younger writer. Analiz, having fled a bad marriage for an independent life in Mazatlán in 1965 is in her 80s when we first meet her in “Old is a 4-Letter Word.” Like Quiroga, Analiz has opted not to be an outside neutral observer of the “other,” but to embrace her new home, and to embrace her aging self.
While full of humor, the Analiz novels do not shy away from the reality of aging or of Mexico. Analiz has a stroke in the course of the series, and — in the last (and as yet unpublished) book in the series — has a run-in with the local narcos.
As reviewer Norm Goldman wrote of “Old is a 4-Letter Word” —
“Old is like one of those nasty 4-letter words. It should be banned from the dictionary.” When she is scolded by her son-in-law for encouraging her seven- year old grandchild to follow his dreams of one day becoming a pilot or astronaut, she retorts that we seem to never get away from the term ‘old’ for when we are young we’re told that we are not old enough to do things and when we become old, we are warned not to do them as we are too old. Annaliz believes that most people’s lives are dull and flat without any fun. She underscores the idea that it is within everyone’s grasp to have some fun out of life- a message she endeavors to spread by presenting her book of options. It is up to the readers of this book to decide if they want to take the risks necessary to enjoy life to its fullest.
And she did.
Again, like Quiroga, Stockton was not one to eschew the new and modern (for Quiroga, not just opening himself to the new and daring ideas of Thomas More, but taking full advantage of the latest in communications technology of his time, the printing press). Having self-published her first two books, she took full advantage of both on-line and “print-on-demand” publishers (who were rather annoyed to find Stockton was quite willing to fight them to have her books printed for her peer group … in large print), as well as maintaining a website, communicating by e-mail and facebook.
Per her instructions, the following was posted on her facebook page:
“To my family and friends at my death:
Have no guilt feelings. My love will always be with you. I lived my life as I wanted to. You gave me everything you had to give while I was here. Let me go with loving thoughts.”