happy 100th birthday

My beautiful grandma is 100 this week.

Grandma, almost 100

She lost her moorings a bit ago, so she can no longer live on her own, and her memories aren’t in order anymore, but she’s as gentle, as kind, as perceptive as she always was.  All she really wants to know is, am I happy? How are the children? Are they healthy? Are they happy?

Grandma Dena and Kate July 2013

I think she’s right to focus on that.

Through luck, we are healthy, and in no small part due to her good example, I can tell her always, truthfully, that yes, I am the happiest person I have ever met. I remember being a teenager, and feeling like I couldn’t survive the awfulness of school (it was pretty bad) or, later, that the very rotation of the planets hung on my boyfriend Mark, feeling so many FEELINGS all of the time.

I have a vivid memory of one afternoon, when I had been parked with her for the weekend. I was at my most turbulent and awkward; my parents (who were kind to me) must have been exhausted. I was weeping, I felt the drama of the Universe playing out in my beat-up child’s heart, and I couldn’t understand why people said things they did not mean, why their behaviors did not match their stated desires, why children were so cruel, and the whole wad of it overcame me, and I sobbed in her lap.

The actual words that she used aren’t what burned into my brain, it was the assurance that she gave me that these weren’t Kate problems. These were human problems. And that she knew exactly how it felt to feel them. And that the sooner I came to terms with what was really, genuinely important to me, and learned to separate it from the classical human drama, the sooner I would relax, and be who I was meant to be.

She had the right to speak about coming to terms with reality, having had a solid dose of it to that point. It is astonishing to me to count backward now, and to see that during the times of my strongest memories of her, she was the age that I am now.

Horse in Grandmas mountains

Horse, in front of one of Grandma’s paintings of one of our favorite places in the White Mountains, in northern Arizona.

One thing that I did not realize at the time is that I would be exactly the same person today as I was at that moment, with my head in her lap. I am not sure that this was her experience; I don’t think so. I don’t know and now, I will never know. There isn’t anyone left to ask about anything from those days, including her, even though she is right there.

I have to get in a morning of work before her birthday party this afternoon, so I’d best get started. I’ve got proofs to send out!

10 thoughts on “happy 100th birthday

    • We saved each other, shortly after I was born (another story) and we have been thick as thieves ever since. She’s an astonishing, strong, kind woman. Deep.
      And it’s painful to miss someone before they are actually gone; it’s been a study in perspective for me.

  1. thanks for sharing your Gram’s words with us. Something I struggle with daily. Had I had such words to guide me then.

  2. Your Grandma is a wise woman, indeed! And your post is one of most beautiful pieces of writing I’ve read in a long time. You infused it with so much love and realism, simultaneously. Fantastic!!

    • Thank you, that’s a lovely thing to say. I am overcome by emotion when I think of my grandmother; my mother, gone. My children. Sigh. It’s all so intense.

  3. Your grandmother sounds like a lovely and wise lady. And yes, it is painful to “miss someone before they are actually gone.” But even when memories go, the core remains. Your grandmother still “are you happy?” “are the children well?” She may not remember the answers but her concern for you lives in the questions

  4. Your grandmother sounds like a very wise woman. I hope someday my grandson will remember me in exactly that way……….beautiful post.

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