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Girl With a Grandmother’s Face

 

 

 

Girl With a Grandmother’s Face

Evelyn Hannon

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 announced solemnly.

'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 hair.

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, too’.

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.

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