We don’t give our elders enough credit.
Gramps was mom’s dad. An active, debonair ladies’ man, who buried two wives and a girlfriend during his 91 years. And by example, he taught me some important life lessons.
Let me tell you a story about my grandfather that makes me smile and sums him up well. The last years of his life he lived in cooperative affordable housing near my parents. He shared the house with 5 other people, most of them women. Gramps still drove so he was the designated driver for shopping trips, doctor visits etc.
When he died, many of those old roommates came to pay their respects. Gramps was known for his fedora hat and cardigan sweaters, so of course he was wearing one of his favorite cardigans. Every. Single. Woman. Asked if there were any more sweaters and, if so, could they have one. After the fifth inquiry my brother looked at me and said, “Jeez, we should have auctioned them off and given the money to gramp’s favorite charity.” You go gramps!
We see the grey hair, the wrinkles, the slow gate and forget that our seniors had a rich and full lifes before these physical signs of aging appeared. And I’m here to tell you that many of them, like my gramps, still do thank goodness.
I was reminded of this at mom’s visit to her podiatrist. It was our first time seeing this doctor and, like most initial meetings, started out with hello and how are you? The doctor was young, cheerful and personable. He addressed mom directly which made me very happy. But like many interactions with our seniors, his questions and comments were in that jocular tone of voice, just this side of teasing, which can come off in a weird way. I know he wasn’t being disrespectful, rather trying to make conversation with a woman he had just met while performing a personal task.
The typical conversation ensued, do you have children, do you have grandchildren and then came this interaction. “You look really good, what are you like 45?” Mom, “I wish. I haven’t seen that in a long time.” “Well, what do you attribute that to?” Mom, “I didn’t smoke or drink.” “Oh, that’s no fun!” Mom, “Well there was always sex.”
You go mom!
We all laughed and I suspect this doctor had not blushed like that in years. Later in the car, I told mom about his reaction. Mom, “Well good, you ask me a question or make a comment like that and you may not like my answer, but you’re going to get it. People think because I’m old that I don’t know what’s going on, or that I didn’t have a life.” And there you have it.
Some of my favorite family stories are from when my parents were younger, courting and just married. It helps me to see and remember them as people. Not old people, not my parents, but people who loved and lived a full life. Before they were my parents, they were Doris and Don who met and fell in love at 16 and married at 21. The gift in knowing these stories, in hearing them over and over again, helps me as mom’s caregiver, to remember she is an adult and to respect the experiences she brings to this new stage in our lives.
What is one of your favorite family stories? Please leave it in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.