I am 51. That means I have probably already lived more than half of my life on earth. I know what it’s like to face my mortality thanks to a close encounter with breast cancer. I have lived long enough to lose friends in car accidents, to suicide, and to serious medical issues. I know what it is to love deeply and be loved that way in return. I have also known hurt and pain. I love a good cry and a good belly laugh. I marvel at nature and am in awe of the Creator of the Universe. I have had numerous jobs, a couple of good careers, and one vocation. I have taken the easy, wide highway and the road less traveled. Sometimes I have taken unfortunate detours or made the journey more difficult that it has to be.
Most of all I have learned a lot, especially that I have a lot more to learn. I am thankful for 51 years of life, and I am increasingly thankful for the wisdom of elders. I particularly enjoy visiting shut-ins in our parish. You can learn a lot by hanging out with “more mature” folks. Oh, I’m also discovering that old gets older all the time.
Seriously, when I was younger I was afraid of old folks–old being anyone over 40. Nursing homes appalled me, and I dreaded visits to my grandmother at the nursing home in Paris, Kentucky. It smelled of strong cleaning solution attempting to cover urine, the soured aromas of leftover lunch, and what I imagined to be the very smell of death. My Granny, as I called her, was a sweet lady. She worked hard every day of her life and never had very much in the way of material things, but she was rich in love and wise in the ways that mattered. Her biscuits, fried apple pies, and canned sausage were better than any gourmet meal that’s crossed my lips. I still have a few letters from her written in careful, almost lacy script. She always put a dollar or two in her letters–just a little something extra. I wish I had spent more time with her, but as a teenager I was afraid she would think my shorts and attention span were both too short. How could that diminutive yet ram-rod straight bespectacled woman possibly understand a way cool worldly teenager like me? Now I know the answer to that question, and Granny is long gone from this world.
My father’s mother, known as “Mammaw” was another wise woman. She, too, had come up the hard way. In fact, she didn’t learn to drive until after my grandfather died suddenly from a heart attack. Not only did she learn to drive–she also moved to the city (Cincinnati) and got a job in the cafeteria at Proctor & Gamble. She pinched pennies, bought stock, kept a neat but comfortable house, and even had a pet squirrel that would come eat on her back porch. I loved to visit her as a child. She had this folding cot that I slept on in her living room. What a treat! I also remember being fascinated with her bathroom and its claw foot tub and toilet with the tank high above it. She was a fine cook; her jam cake with caramel icing was divine. She was also active in her church and donated her time and her driving skills to haul around “little old ladies” younger than herself. She loved her family and was always giving and caring. I remember her carefully selected and inscribed cards that arrived at Christmas and on my birthday. Inside was always a crisp bill of more denomination than she should have sent. Mammaw even tried to teach this lefty how to iron properly. It was probably one of the few failures of her life because I still can’t iron worth a hoot.
Both of my grandmothers were wise beyond their schooling. They knew what was important in life, and they knew how to squeeze the most out of every day and each dollar. I wish I had sought more of their wash and wear wisdom when I had the chance. Unfortunately, I couldn’t comprehend wisdom or beauty or the sacrificial ways of love. My world revolved around Tiger Beat, rock and roll, bell-bottom jeans, and other transitory fads and fashions. They loved me anyway. What a gift, what a precious, precious gift! Thank you, Granny and Mammaw. Now I understand, and I am thankful for your wisdom and love.
Photo by Mrs. Logic used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!