Girl With a Grandmother’s
This past Mother's Day I announced at our family celebration that
of all the mothers in the room I had been a mom for the longest
time. This little bit of trivia was meant simply to stimulate discussion
about generations -- grandmothers, mothers, children, and their
relationships to one another. Instead, what I got in return was
a peek into the inner fears of the littlest ones at the table.
'Yes, you're very old and wrinkled,' my four year-old granddaughter
'You're weak and you're going to die soon,’ added her five-year
old cousin, matter of factly.
'Weak?' I shouted in mock anger. 'Get your hands on the table;
we're going to do some arm wrestling'. They laughed uproariously.
Of course I let each of them win their arm wrestling match but
I made those kids work hard enough so that the little veins in their
temples were bulging. That game wasn’t played to satisfy my
ego. It was just my small way of allaying the fears my grandchildren
have about me getting old and dying.
As I slowly dip my toes into the aging process my feelings about
this stage in life are taking shape. Having helped our family's
matriarch negotiate her way through the death process, I understand
completely that getting old is not for sissies. While it can be
a very rich and textured journey it definitely won’t be without
its aches, pains and stiff challenges. I believe that because I
had the perfect role model.
At 94, my mother who spent a large part of every day in bed was
still competing in weekly bridge tournaments. Even with an ailing
heart she climbed twenty stairs to join the congregation that assembled
for her great granddaughter's baby naming ceremony. She was a lesson
in courage and how to live life to the fullest. She perfected the
art of growing old gracefully.
My mother was always impeccably groomed but never complained about
a wrinkle here or flabby skin there. We loved her not for how she
looked but for being who she was -- a great grandmother.
Now I'm the family matriarch who is coming of age in a crazy Alice-in-Wonderland
kind of world. The baby boomers are hot on my trail and while I
empathize with many of their concerns, most of their aging issues
are in direct contrast to my own.
We live in a society that refuses to grow old. On a daily basis
the media taunts us with demeaning nonsense like ‘Ten Ways
To Look Ten Years Younger.’ Aging, instead of a badge of honour
has become a shameful thing that we’re taught to hide. No
wonder my grandchildren are worried. Someone they love has gray
These days my goal is to demonstrate to the little ones that aging
is a natural process. I have my place in the family and they have
theirs. My message is, ‘one day a long time from now you’ll
be grandparents and you’ll have juicy grandchildren to hug,
I know about daily exercise designed to keep me fit. I proved that
last year by completing a 10K run to celebrate my 65th birthday.
Eating all my food groups has always been important to me. Like
my peers I want to stay healthy for as long as I can.
But, do I want to be a size eight again so I can wear this year’s
form fitting fashion? Absolutely not, I'll leave that to this generation’s
younger women. The truth is I’ve had my time to be provocative
and attention seeking. Let them have theirs. For everything there
is a season.
And my wrinkles? Believe me, I’m no martyr. These physical
changes aren’t easy to love. Ads scream out at me from bus
shelters, magazines and newspapers. Botox this; lift that. Be mistaken
for your daughter.
In truth, I have no desire to be like my daughters. I’m their
mother and I enjoy my role tremendously. I care far less about bee
stung lips and much more about working to be an active, informed
participant in the circle of life.
I know my grandchildren are looking to me and absorbing what they
will need to live their own full lives. This provides my impetus
to move forward and enjoy the future in the most natural way possible.
Telling a bedtime story to a wide-eyed grandchild is definitely
one of life’s best gifts. Opportunities to learn are endless.
There’s a great big world for me to explore and I now have
the time to do it. Who cares about the wrinkles? In my heart I’m
still just a girl blessed with a grandmother’s face.