debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
[personal profile] debboamerik
I have been thinking a lot about the concept of growing old gracefully. I had a conversation with my grandmother recently that precipitated this. We were talking about how hard things have been for my dad and his siblings since my uncle died. Grandma Snazzy (yes, we call her that) mentioned that she doesn't have any friends. All her siblings and most of her friends have died. I mentioned that one can always make new friends, and she said that at her age (she's in her late 80s), they die, too. In a way, I get this. But isn't that life? Everyone does die, sooner or later.

Grandma Snazzy has generally been a great example of the idea of growing old gracefully. When I was a child, she and my grandfather took trips around the world. They visited China, Yugoslavia, and Peru, among many others, on inexpensive package tours. Grandma, who was a shoe saleswoman at The Broadway, retired when I was in my early teens. She then devoted herself to volunteer work and gardening. She was always busy - busier than my high school senior self, even though I was singing in three choirs and participating in Mock Trial. Now, however, she has been slowed down by her broken hips, and she's idle and unhappy.

My Granny (great-grandmother), on the other hand, bloomed almost to the very end of her life. She died just before her hundredth birthday. Grandpa Pumpkinhead (other side of the family, but yes, we call him that) died two years before I was born. The year that I was born, my Granny, who was already 80, traveled to Egypt. She later went to Ireland and the Holy Land, among other places. Back in the U.S., she signed up for Bible study classes at her parish church and History classes at her local community college. After she broke her hip a few times, Granny was forced to live in a residential care facility, but she was still the life of the party. She attended daily Mass. She won awards for her creative Halloween costumes. She also won money at bingo and taught herself to read Italian (I should mention that she was not on the Italian side of my family).

The interesting thing, to me, is that my Granny was a widow, while
Grandma Snazzy is not. According to my dad and uncles, Granny was quite subdued when Grandpa Pumpkinhead was alive, and became more active as a widow. I wonder if this is part of what is holding Grandma Snazzy back, and if so, I find it rather sad. I think, though, there are other factors. Grandma Snazzy enjoys being active, but she's not the most social person in the world. She's also in a private home in a gated community miles from real public transportation. Still, both of them give a person a lot to think about. What is growing old gracefully? Does it help or hurt to be a widow? What does one do when one finds one's friends and family dying, one by one?

Any and all ideas on this topic are welcome.
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debboamerik

January 2011

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