When I arrived, she had just finished her chair exercise class and was in the dining room at a table by herself. It always makes me a little sad when I find her sitting by herself for meals. That said – it’s never for very long. However, today, I was relieved that I didn’t have to share her. I had business.
With notebook and pen in hand, I asked her what she would do if for one day she should could be 40 again. She would no longer be blind and could walk freely, swishing her hips and hearing the clap, clap of her heels. (I suspect she was a really, really good hip swisher.)
She said simply that she’d spend the day with my Grandpa. And, if it was more than a day, they’d go on a trip together “because I loved him so much.”
Before we could get too far involved, we were joined by her good friend, Kathryn, who is also in her 90s. Kathryn didn’t hesitate. She had big, detailed plans for her day at 40 again. “First, I would get my grandsons and take them to my house. I’d make waffles. My waffle maker has five heart-shaped waffles. Then, we would go to the park and I’d take a book with me. I always take books with me to the park.”
As she elaborated on her day, I wondered how long it had been since she had a day in the park – just her and her grandsons. Then, my intentions turned inward and the guilt welled up, as I wondered how many park days that I’ve taken for granted or worse yet, wished I was somewhere else ticking off things from my to-do list.
Grandma and Kathryn were quickly moving from ideas on how to spend their day to stories of old. This could have been a long and fun tangent, but I had a writing deadline. So, I asked them both, “What would you tell your 40-year old self? Here’s their advice (verbatim) …
· Always put your husband first.
· Always keep yourself looking good.
· It’s nice to have pet names for each other (husband/wife).
· Try to be home when your husband gets home.
· If you can’t say anything nice – just don’t say it.
· Always be honest (w/your husband).
I almost couldn’t hear their answers over the feminist screaming in my head.
I gingerly laid down my pen and smoothed out my 2011 ire and asked “What about you? What would YOU do without your kids or husband for whole day?”
Kathryn said, “I don’t know how to think about my life without children. I’ve was just in my room thinking – what is my problem? My problem is that I don’t have any children in my life.”
At that moment, I was quietly content with the beauty of my life simply as a mother and a wife.
Halpern teases, “You’re only young twice.” In 29, a 75 year-old grandmother’s birthday wish comes true. She awakes as a svelte and beautiful 29 year old woman. The grandmother’s glorious adventures with her 20-something granddaughter made me want to scoop up my 94 year-old Gram and take her out on the town … road trip, shopping for a new outfit, lunch at an outdoor bistro, or a tropical drink enjoyed bar-side. Alas, we enjoyed a cup of soup and ice tea this afternoon. And, you know what? It was just right.