Since this is called the Age of Gray, let’s talk about aging gracefully. Do we? Should we? How? I remember that my grandmother (my mother’s mother), Ruthie, DID NOT AGE. I don’t mean that she did not grow older, but according to her, she did not age. In fact, other than having birthdays, she did not acknowledge that she grew older. She fought it tooth and toenail. In fact, she fought it so hard, that it was not until she had great-grandchildren that she even allowed herself to be called by any name that hinted at being a grandmother. Don’t get me wrong, she was a wonderful grandmother. My siblings and I could not have asked for a more doting grandmother, but when I was born, she told my mother that she was entirely too young to be a grandmother and that she would not be called Grandmother, Granny, Grandma or anything like that. She would consent to Granmere (as long as it sounded French) or Momma Ruth. Daddy, bless his contrary heart, told his mother-in-law that his daughter had a momma and henceforth she could be Ruthie or Grandmother. Since I refereed to her as Ruthie, you can see what won out. (Now Daddy’s mother wore her age proudly and was Mamaw. In fact she and her sister, Aunt Pearl, were twins and both of them lived to ripe old ages and since they were born in 1900 it was so easy to know how old they were. I’ve always thought that was the coolest year to be born in.)
And since we know that I am prone to digress, here is a classic Ruthie not being old story. My grandfather, Sam (heck if she was Ruth, he of course had to be Sam since she was way too young to be married to a Grandfather!), died when all of us kids were grown and had children of our own. She began to be courted by a wonderful man named George. She did not tell mother or us about George, so Laura and I kind of found out by accident. We stopped by to see Ruthie one day and there was this man in her house. Without any hesitation at all she introduced us. “Linda, Laura, this is my friend George. George, this is Linda and Laura, I’ve known them their whole lives.” To our credit we did not correct his assumption that we were just girls she knew. It was some time later before George ever knew we were in fact grandchildren.
Family lore has it that when my Great-Grandmother (Momma Polly, hmmm guess that is where she got it) died, according to the obituary in the paper, she was younger than her oldest son. My great-aunt (Sister, NEVER Cora, or Aunt Cora) would get furious anytime someone tried to find out how old she was. So, I come from a line of age deniers.
Until we get to my mother. My mother relished her age. She never lied about her age. She could not wait to be a grandmother and proudly told anyone and everyone about her grandchildren. But, she was not a Grandmother. She was Mammy. My daughter is the oldest grandchild and that is what she started calling her. And to Amanda, Ruthie was Granny.
Now we get to my sister and me. One reason that Ruthie could get by with her silliness, and actually Sister as well, is they were genetically programed to not look their age for a long time (eighties hit us hard though). Laura and I got those wonderful genes. And since we have laughed at our elders too often, it would be rather bad of us to lie about our ages. We all know what karma can be. I’ve had silver streaks since I was in my late twenties. Laura has glitter (her words) in her hair that is beautiful. Other than the Barber (thanks Daddy) eye bags, we don’t really wrinkle as much as we should seeing as how we were of the Sun Baby generation. Don’t get me wrong, even as vain as I am, I don’t think I can pass for a twenty, thirty or even forty something. And if anyone asks, I tell them my actual, true age. (Except when I hit 35, 45, 55 and I assume I’ll do the same when I hit 65. Something about that 5 just gets to me. I was 36 twice, 44 twice and 56 twice. See, I’m even fairly fair about that). However, I will probably cry the first time someone says, “Gee, I thought you were older than that”.
I think that our society is not so focused on people acting a certain way as we age. The day of the matronly, sedate grandparent is over. We don’t automatically dress in somber tones, stay at home, and begin to die once we hit fifty or sixty. Grandmothers and grandfathers are still vital and active. Check out the AARP magazine. Do you tell people your true age (and not just to get the senior discount)? Are you truly embracing the Age of Gray? What bother’s you most about growing older, the physical changes or something else? We keep hearing that 60 is the new 40, so when should I have my mid-life crisis, 60 or 80? Gee, I’m giving myself a headache thinking all these deep thoughts. I think I’ll fix another cup of coffee and go sit on the couch and rest a bit.