Looking Back

29 by Adena HalpernToday I played hooky.  No, I didn’t get a pedicure.  I surprised my 94 year-old Grandmother with an impromptu visit in the middle of the day.   

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. 

This post was inspired by the novel 29 by Adena Halpern, the April pick for the From Left to Write Book Club. A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

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.

8 Responses to “Looking Back”

  1. 29: A Novel by Adena Halpern – A From Left to Write Book Club | Says:

    […] Michele Spring Fajeau of Read Out Loud  played hooky […]

  2. melanie Says:

    it makes me wonder what kind of advice we “feminists” will have for our daughters and granddaughters 50 years from now…

    • michelefajeau Says:

      I agree, Melanie. Even with both their husbands long gone, their entire focus was on men and kids. It was almost more than I could take.

      I (we women!) won the lottery by being born during this time and having room for the “me” in my life too. That said, when all is done … there is a good deal of truth to their words. Family and love is all that really matters.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Amy H Says:

    How wonderful that you got to spend some time reflecting with your grandmother and her friend! Such a sweet post.

    If I look ahead and imagine my granddaughter asking me this question, I’d hope that my answers would be very similar (maybe with a “me” pedicure or something added to the list). I don’t think it’s anti-feminist to realize that you get joy and contentment from the people you love. My favorite days aren’t the ones where I go to work and leave my family behind—even on my most triumphant career growth days. My favorite days are the ones I spend listening to my children laugh and play in the sunshine, while my husband and I exchange a look knowing that this family is something we created together.

    • michelefajeau Says:

      So true, Amy. Some of our best days are playing in the pool during the hot summer days or a board game and pizza during a winter storm.

  4. Kristin Says:

    This is such a sweet post Michele. I do take for granted time with my kids, husband, grandfather, etc. You have inspired me to have a day of hooky with my 96 year old grandfather this summer, and to try to enjoy more time at the park…..

  5. April Says:

    This just makes me sad that they didn’t think there was more to their lives than those roles. I want to be more like Elle at the end of the book, working at something that gives me pleasure, enjoying time with friends, maybe volunteering. I want to be an usher at the Pantages and spend hours at the library. And I want to have Sunday brunches with my girls.

  6. Melissa Says:

    I really enjoyed this post. (I’m having to blink away the tears in this moment.) I wish I could go back and interview my grandmother, as you wisely did. I wish I had spent more time with my grandmother in her later years, when she was in a home with Alzheimer’s.. I couldn’t bear to see her so diminished–back when it was all about me, in my late teens-early twenties. I can hear her voice echoed in your grandmothers–how much family meant to her, and I feel a pang of regret.

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