After having her pacemaker put in, at age 92, my spry great grandmother-- Granny, asked her doctor, as she was being discharged from the hospital, when she needed to see him again. The doc, who at the time looked to be about 28 years old, patted my 4 foot, 10 inch tall Granny on the head and said he'd see her in a few years to "change her battery". Granny, without missing a beat, replied "Young man, I am a very thrifty woman. I'll be back in seven years." Then she turned on her heals and marched out of the hospital.
I remember thinking the doctor was kind of rude and had no idea who he was dealing with. My Granny may have looked like the little old lady from the Tweety cartoon but she was no shrinking violet. And she was indeed, VERY thrifty.
Like at holiday time-- Granny was always very specific about her "wish list" from our family. It was the same every year:
--A large jar of Tang, the orange mix the astronauts drank
--A Girl Scout calendar because it had big squares for each date to write in
--School pictures of each of her five great-grand children
--Three bars of Ivory Soap, which would last her the entire year
--A box of Ritz Crackers-- I'm guessing these lasted all year too!
--Plus-- this was the important part-- a minimal amount of scotch tape on the wrapping paper.
Opening presents was a long process with our Granny because she carefully opened each package and saved the paper so she could use it to wrap our presents in the following year.
When I was really young I used to be amazed that a jar of Tang would be considered a treat but was tickled that Granny was so happy. Years later, I finally caught on to the drill and made it a point to use the tape sparingly.
I was in my early 20s when Granny passed away at the happy age of 97. In all that time, I never, ever remember hearing her complain, even when she slept over at our house filled with babies and toddles and eventually loud teenagers. Not one cross word or ruffled feather was felt or implied.
Over the years, through the aging process, she had plenty to complain about but her "ailments" were her version of a well-earned badge of honor. She was "even keel" as she said, and always kept moving forward, even if the steps were tiny at times.
Looking back, I wish I'd paid closer attention to Granny and asked more questions about her life and how she managed to stay so positive. My memories are few and boarding on silly in the scheme of things. I remember playing bingo and eating Eskimo Pies together, her lace-up black shoes and old fashioned glasses, and her gnarled hands from arthritis. I do not remember her words of wisdom, advice or opinions on life in general.
I was too young for a while but as I grew into my teens and early 20s I was too silly and full of myself to really connect with Granny on a meaningful level. And today, that makes me sad. I missed out on really knowing a strong, spirited and caring woman. But my Mom learned a lot from Granny-- She was very much the mother-figure in Mom's upbringing.
She doesn't usually save wrapping paper but my Mother collects bows, ribbons and gift tags so well that I swear I've seen some of them passed around our family for the past fifteen years. Mom takes great pride in it-- Not so much from a "thrifty" point of view but because she knows her grandmother would be proud of her for reusing things-- And it makes her feel closer to Granny.
My mother also takes pride in her swollen knuckles from osteoarthritis because her Granny had it too. Same goes for her poor hearing, her ability to reuse a tea bag countless times and using a shoestring to hold her hair back from falling in her face-- All Granny-isms.
These days, I grouse about my hands inching closer to the shape of my Mother and Granny and wish I had the same lightheartedness about it. I do not like the direction and appearance my arthritic hands are headed, and I do not view them as a badge of anything other then getting painfully old-- Literally. Perhaps I missed the "aging gracefully" gene. Or maybe I just should have paid closer attention to my Granny when she talked to me as a young adult.
When my baby niece was born last week my mother became a Great Grandmother. The first question my siblings and I had was if she would assume the "Granny" title although she looks nothing like the little old lady usually associated with the name. "Absolutely not!" was Mom's response. "There can only ever be one Granny."
It reminded me how important it is to listen to my mother and the lessons she's still teaching me. And along the way, I'm hoping I'll grow to love the fact that my hands, although increasingly disfigured, still serve me well enough to take care of myself like they have for the amazing and strong women of my family before of me.
Who should you have listened to?
Welcome to www.TheFiftyFactor.com - Joanna Jenkins