I come from a long line of women who refused to act their age. I have looked at pictures of my grandmother Mammy and realized that she did not have grey hair until she was in her 70s…..and she never dyed it. Indeed, she envied women who, at that time, had blue hair from a bottle. She was told at the age of 35 that she had rheumatoid arthritis and that she would soon be in a wheelchair. I think that she might have spit on the doctor who told her that. She hobbled around until the age of 81, working hard until just hours before her death. I know how hard she worked. She lived with us from before I was born. I used to wake up in the middle of the night to the smell of brownies. When she hurt bad enough not to sleep, she just got up and baked or sewed or sent out get-well cards to people who were sick. “No sense just lying there,” she would say. “I could be doing something.” My mother said that when the paramedics came to take her to the hospital after her heart attack, she fought them off. It was her 81st birthday, and she never did see the likes of a wheelchair.
My mother married late and did not have her first child until a couple days after she turned 32. At that time, there were women at that age who were pretty close to becoming grandmothers. She was always conscious of her age and kept it hidden under lock and key. She decided in her late 30s that she would be better off being blond than grey, and so, she bleached her jet-black hair. She was an ash-blond until just a year before she died at the age of 83. She never used her senior-citizen card even in her late 70s, foregoing eligible discounts, because she didn’t want anyone to know how old she was. She kept my grandmother’s old coats in her closet, you know the curly wool ones with the fur collars, for when she got old. Needless to say, she gave them away to someone who needed them more.
I took heart when I turned 40 and met my Kansas City neighbor’s mom, who at that time was, I guess, late 50s or early 60s. She was a grandmother. And she still wore blue jeans and Birkenstocks. That encouraged me. Old doesn’t have to be old.
So, here I am today, turning 57 years old. At one point, a 57 year old grandmother sounded really really old. But I read the other day that the oldest woman in the world right now is 114. I am just to the halfway point. My to-do list just keeps getting longer. Family sweeter. Friendships deeper. And God even more amazing.