Lyla Birdis Bennett will be the first to tell you her vision is nearly gone, she doesn't hear well anymore and she's seen plenty of tough times in her 100 years on this earth.
But you would hardly know it from meeting her. She is beloved in her church and by her family, and she shows a zeal for life, for people and for her faith that could explain her longevity.
She's also hilarious.
"I like to say funny things to people. You know God wants me to make everybody laugh," Lyla says, sitting in her home near Christian City where she still lives alone and cooks for herself. Her voice is a bit musical and the way she talks shows she's spent 100 years in the south — particularly the way she pronounces "Alabamer" and "bananer."
She got a proper birthday celebration last Sunday at her church, Sandy Creek Baptist, and had everyone laughing with her stories.
"She's got a good personalty and she keeps everybody laughing. She's usually the life of the party," says Louise Bennett, her niece. Louise helps look after Lyla, something she's done for a long time for an aunt that she says is as good as a mother to her.
Lyla never had children of her own, but she had plenty of nieces and nephews, and to them she became the favorite.
"I never did have any children. I wanted to have them but it wasn't God's will 'cus he told me that. But he's given me a lot of nieces and nephews, and they always wanted to come to my house cause I always petted you and done things for you, didn't I?" she says to Louise.
As you might expect, Lyla has some stories that would seem entirely foreign to today's iPad-toting youth. She came to Georgia from Hodges, Ala. in the back of a covered wagon when she was 6 years old. She still has clear memories of those early days.
"We had two little mules pulling us. I still remember the names. We had to stop along the way and spend nights. We would get permission from school houses or churches to stay the night," Lyla remembers. "We'd stop at these country stores and get cheese, and lightning bread, we called it lightning bread, but it was loaf bread. My momma would get my daddy's knife. Every man had a pocket knife back then, and she would cut that cheese, line us up, give us a piece of cheese and she'd break off that lightning bread because it wouldn't slice.
"You know that was the best bread, I can still taste it," she laughs.
Lyla was one of ten kids, and she has one sibling left today, her sister Mary McMillian who is 95. She says her parents had a lot of kids for the same practical purpose as many poor farmers at the time.
"Believe you me, we was raised to work. You had chores to do, we had to get stove wood, we had to get kindlin. You don't know nothing about that," she says, smiling.
"We lived in little shotgun houses. You'd burn on one side and freeze on the other in them little houses because that's all the heat we had."
Her mother passed away in childbirth only a few years after they arrived in Georgia, leaving her father with the tough task of raising ten children on his own and forcing her oldest sister, who was not even two year older than her, to take on the role of mother.
Lyla remembers one day when she refused to help with washing the dishes and doing chores because she was busy "primpin" in the front room mirror. Her father, as she describes him was "half Irish with a tempter and he didn't put with foolishness," demanded an explanation.
"I said 'Papa, I'm a trying to get purdy. And you know I say I been trying to get purdy ever since," she laughs, "I tell everyone that at the church."
Kids in those days also had to manufacture their own entertainment.
"We'd go out and catch lighting bugs. We couldn't go to a store and get toys, we'd go out at night and get a glass jar and catch a lighting bug and have him in there to show around to everybody. They had junebugs back then. We'd go out and get a june bug and we'd tie a string around his leg for entertainment. We'd let him shoot around and we'd hold him on a string. I'd like to have a movie of that," she recalls.
In 1934, at the age of 20, Lyla got married to Grady Bennett, and they were together for 44 years until his passing.
"I had a good lookin' man and he was 6-feet-2 and he was so strong. When we got married I weighed 95 pounds and he could just pick me up like that and put me on his hand and hold me up. I was just 95 pounds but he wasn't so fat hisself cus he didn't have much to eat," she laughs.
Lyla and Grady lived through the struggles of the Great Depression together, both working various jobs they could get. She remembers he worked as an "ice man" in Atlanta and could barely scrape by a living for the two of them.
"One time he came back and he had his ice pick laying down beside him and he was crying because he couldn't get the groceries we needed. We went through a depression, it was everywhere and it was bad. He made 75 cents a day to work all day. That was hard times."
Though Lyla and Grady never had children of their own, children were very much a part of their lives. Lyla spent years, some while Grady served as a military policemen during World War II, living with her sister and caring for multiple nieces and nephews.
She also has a special connection with her goddaughter, who is now 42 and disabled by the hydrocephalus condition she first suffered as a small child. Hydrocephalus is a condition in which the brain swells with too much fluid, and can be deadly.
"She looked natural and she was beautiful but in a couple months she began to get this water head, her little head was nearly as big as your body. When they called and told me that she had to go to the hospital, I got right ready real quick and I went down to grady and her little old eyes was barely open with this big old head and I looked at her and she looked like an angel," Lyla says.
"I stayed with her all night. I got up and nursed her in my lap, and god just sealed her on my heart. She is just like my own. She's 42 now, she can barely walk because she'd had so many operations on her little head, but she's blessed because those children hardly ever live to get grown. And she tells me now and I do her that she was left here for me, and I was left here for her. "
Lyla has a particular knack for seeing all the blessings in life, and she credits it to her Christian faith.
"I know I am a hundred. I give all the credit to god. But everybody in that little sweet church is so good to me, they just pass me from one to another cuz i can't see. They are always right there with me."
Lyla continues to stay active for someone her age, and particularly enjoys to cook and eat. Eating anything that isn't bland can be tough at 100, but not for Lyla.
"I tell 'em I can eat anything. I can eat cucumbers, raw onions, I love onions. They'll look at me at the church, they'll have these great old big bananer peppers, and I can just take 'em up and eat 'em like they was a piece of candy, and they laugh at me. They think that I eat anything, and my nieces say when Lyla quits eatin', we just gonna take her to the cemetary and cover her up and we're gonna put an onion on her grave," Lyla laughs, "and I said if you come back the next day that onion will be gone."
Lyla's not interested in eating that onion yet, though.
"I tell god every day, I do believe that I belong to him and I'm ready to go when he gets ready to take me, but I'm not wantin' to catch that next bus," she laughs.