Being a grandparent is one of my new selves – a role never wished for, prayed about or necessary for my wellbeing.
At least that’s how I summed up the role prior to the arrival of this naked-butt cherub above. Life offers up surprises at any age. Liam is one of mine.
Yes, I glow in his presence! I especially love my time alone with him to learn and do and be.
Right now, he returns the glow, and I’d like to keep it that way. His new mind maps images and his ears tune to language – and soon, I’ll be labeled “old person.” That’s okay with me.
All of us blessed with an “old person” – Grandpa T, old aunt Phoebe, a doozy of a neighbor, or a preacher man Elmer – to mold our thinking and ease life’s swirling waters know a contribution was made to our lives to exceed all expectations. We probably didn’t realize how extraordinary and commanding this connection would affect us.
So, I ask myself:
1. How might I live my life well – true to me – yet model a life worth living to a child?
2. How do I ensure my grandson has no reason to impose dreadful indictments associated with old age upon me?
For sure, I’ll ponder #1 for the rest of my life.
But #2 got me thinking. Soon Liam will string together sentences, and his observations will be astute, unprompted and … judgmental.
Imagining my dismay to hear Liam say something cringe-worthy about me makes it easy to reflect on behaviors I need to keep and cultivate.
This list of “things I don’t want to give Liam reasons to say” reflects more attitude than wisdom. Don’t let this be a reason to dismiss the underlying value.
Your attitude – about retirement, getting older, life after 50, 60 or 70, the unknown – is the most important factor in how successful you are in designing and living productively in the future.
Things Liam Will Never Say About His Grandmother
(and how she’ll make sure of it)
1. She’s mean to my momma.”
I have my own life to live, so I forge an adult relationship with my daughter based on mutual respect for who she is. Spending time parenting adult children who really don’t need or want parenting takes time and energy away from your life, plus this is not your main job anymore.
I choose not to point out times when she can do better (she can) or the mistakes she makes (she makes them). With my version of unconditional love and support, Liam will not see or hear me – tempted as I may be – roll my eyes, make a face, make a destructive comment, or be a harpy to his momma.
My job is my life, not her life, and I’m clear about this.
2. “She smells funny.”
When I look as good as I can – maximizing all my resources – my view of myself is more positive. With a boost in my self-esteem, even a small one, I am a better person – I swear this is true.
I’m a better listener with a good haircut wearing ankle boots, skinny jeans and sparkly, signed earrings from the 50s.
I’ve had my eyes done twice, I do crunches, bike daily and I will color my hair forever – illustrating how hard I work (and how much money I spend) to feel good about myself.
I was taught that to feel good about oneself is just as important -and along the same lines in principle – as trying your best at anything. And just as much a priority as, say, striving for an A instead of a C in physics. (It was hard; I barely got the C; it was my best; it didn’t look good on my transcript.)
And, the whole caboodle of self-esteem was up to me -no one else- only me.
On rare occurrences as a teenager given money for clothes as well as the family car to drive to downtown Dayton to shop, I went Lerner’s department store – think Dollar Store with clothes.
My mother didn’t approve. “Better to buy one good piece than three cheapies.”
“See,” she’d say as I twirled in a new dress with a dangling Lerner’s tag, “the hem doesn’t hang right and you don’t feel pretty in it, do you? No, you don’t. It’s important to f-e-e-l g-o-o-d about yourself. So take this back and go to Rike’s (mid-western Dillard’s of the ’60s.)”
Today I spend money on clothes meant to last my lifetime and my daughter’s. I also spend more money than necessary on vintage costume jewelry (because I love those rhinestones) and the dentist.
We all splurge on things to make us like our selves better. These are mine.
My mom loved how she looked in knee socks and Bermuda shorts – a style good for the ’50s maybe, but not so much in the ’90s. With a springy walk and the pride of a youthful 77-year-old, I wasn’t going to tell her to ditch those knee socks.
When Liam is older, his grandmother may not opt for knee socks, but she will continue to discover ways to make herself look as good as she can.
She may even change her current perfume – Chance by Chanel – and start spritzing on the Shalimar of her youth. Oh boy, what a smell for a grand old person!
3. “She seems sad.”
Momma’s gone to heaven; daddy’s on the way; your brother isn’t speaking to you and you don’t know why; and an agent for your second book can’t be found. Life is sad in ways big and small.
In times unforeseen, when cry is the best I can do, I will cry. Liam will see me cry during his lifetime, but he won’t see me cry for long.
This scene from my 30s became a life-lesson:
Lamenting and whining about where, as a single mother on a teacher’s salary, I was ever going to find the money for two new tires, my mother listens patiently.
Slowly she stubs out her Winston, gets up from the dining table, empties her coffee cup in the sink, and lifts her eyes to the kitchen window toward the field past the backyard I played in as a child.
“Barbara, you are choosing to sit in the rain. But the sun is shining somewhere. (very long pause) I suggest you go find it.”
Got it Mom.
I work hard to get over things as soon as I can, because life is short and I can’t fix many things that break – especially the things that break my heart.
4. “She’s always tired.”
Energy is created when you are living a life you choose. Some days I love more than others. As the world around me changes day to day, an elusive control I think is mine pays off well in my life’s direction. I am designing my life and living it.
Yes, I am tired as the day with Liam ends with a walk and his two-year-old self takes off running hell-bent for somewhere down the street as drivers swerve, and even manage a wave as I scoop him up.
But, for now, I’m no more tired than his late-in-life mother.
The day will come when my get-up-and-go declines, but spirit, I am told, never wears out.
“As long as I am breathing, in my eyes, I am just beginning.” — Criss Jami
I plan on writing this in the palm of my ninety-year-old hand.