As I took out the trash over the weekend, I discovered that someone had missed the dumpster when attempting to toss in an empty water bottle. My first thought was, “Come on! Walk the extra 20 steps and recycle it!” Then my instinct led me to pick it up, bring it up to my place, and add it to the recycling pile. Another dime of fun money!
That immediately reminded me of hundreds of walks I had with my paternal grandma. We spent so much time together as I was growing up, and we would often walk through her neighborhood. Before we left Grandma would always pick up a plastic grocery bag to carry with us. As we walked and talked, we also looked for abandoned aluminum cans that she could take back for the deposit. Being a child during the Depression, she couldn’t understand how people could just leave money by the wayside, but she was not too proud to pick up the cans. “I’d pick up a nickle if it were laying on the road!”
My youngest sister (I want to say “little” but she’s studying for her PhD now, so that no longer seems appropriate) is fourteen years my junior (and was the victim of my earthquake attack!). The relationship that she had with Grandma is VERY different than what I did, so much so that when I tell stories about our grandma, she doesn’t recognize the person I’m talking about.
In theory, she was the same woman. From a kid’s perspective, Grandma was old for me and old for my younger siblings. But “old” grandma for me was in her early 50s. [That’s like 10 years older than me now! Holy cow!!!! I don’t know whether to be afraid that I will be perceived as old in a decade or to marvel at how completely different our lives ended up!] She was a regular at the beauty parlor, and she worked part time at the drug store. We went on picnics, we worked in her garden, and we ate Thrifty’s ice cream. She was active, witty, and smart.
My youngest sister’s grandma was mid-sixties (not that that is old!!!!!) and was starting to suffering the effects of Parkinson’s. She was tired and unhappy. As the Parkinson’s progressed, paranoia was added to the mix. While this woman looked like the grandma I’d grown up with, she was very different. I wish my sister could have known my version of Grandma.
But the idea of different times equaling different people is not restricted to one losing abilities with age. Often these transformations have positive results. In high school I had a friend in my French class who hadn’t come into her own yet. She didn’t consider academics to be her strong point and really did not know where to apply her focus. A completely different woman walked into our 10 year reunion. First of all, she was drop dead gorgeous (the women of my class as a whole looked spectacular at the 10 year mark – better than in high school!). Even more important, she had found her focus. She was studying to be a physical therapist. She knew she wanted to help people, and she had figured out how. She was glowing and had an enviable confidence. It showed in how she carried herself, and her passion was obvious in each word she spoke.
I hope that as I age my essence stays the same and that I evolve into a more poised version of myself who embodies contentment of a life well-lived to all new people I meet.