Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tell me 'bout the good ol' days

After a recent visit home, the song “Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good ol days” keeps creeping into my consciousness. “Sometimes it feels like, this world's gone crazy”. It truly does. Life was simpler. I've found the most honest, forthright, and best advice given by people, statistically speaking, closest to death. I said to my grandma last week, “you're closer to the end of your life than you've ever been, but the most alive,” She is in her 80's, and her list of things to do is going to keep her alive another 10 years, at least. She believes in her strength, in her health and vitality. Her fervor and zest for life is one that is unmatched by even her grandchildren. Honestly.

I have yet to see my grandma siting around idly, waiting for life to happen. She is too busy for that. Too busy moving her body, writing a letter, or making a heartwarming mean for a friend or family member. She attends Bellevue High School reunions every three months for multiple graduating classes from the 1940's. She drives three hours, over a, at times, slippery mountain pass to visit her “older” male companion. He is 88 and is insisting she move in with him. Even though she has told him she doesn't want to move, he isn't getting the point. So last week, in front of his kids, she spoke up for all to hear “My life is here in Western Washington close to my family, if he wants to, we can get a place together here. I will not be a caregiver for him. I have my own life and family that are important to me. I know I may end up resenting him and that is not what I want.” That's why I love my grandma. She tells it like it is. There is no sugar coating it, or beating around the bush.

She would road trip, not for fun like me, but for necessity when moving across the country. In an old Chevrolet station wagon she piled four daughters in a car, with the summer heat offering no relief, and would head from California to Alabama to visit family. In jest my grandma said “I mean who's going to invite a woman with four children over for dinner. Not many, I can tell you that much.” On one such trip my grandma admitted to being quite excited. “I had piled all of us girls in the car and on this day they were particularly bad”. Threatening them she said “if you kids don't behave I'm going to turn this car around and we're going to head home,” to which they replied “good, we didn't want to go anyway”. Her plan backfired until it dawned on her what the punishment was “ok, then we're going”, pleased with the outcome.

My grandma told me about how she loved being surprised from my Papa. My great grandma would make my Papa stay home from school to help her do laundry and chores around the home. The work around the house got in the way of him attaining this high school degree, which bothered my grandpa. After he got married to my grandma in his early 20's, she encouraged him to get his GED because she knew how important completing his education was to him. On Thursday nights he had duty at a military base and on those nights he secretly studied and worked toward getting his GED.  After cooking dinner one night, my grandma lifted up a plate to serve dinner and found the certificate for his GED. Upon seeing the degree, she giggled and squealed with delight in her proud admiration of her husband. She told me how she loved being surprised and the importance of reacting excitedly to keep the guy coming back with surprises.