I was in Indiana this week to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday. She is a remarkable woman, and the occasion had me reflecting on just what I had always admired about her.
Grandma has always been so alive, so possessed of a zeal for living. I believe this comes from a wonderful fearlessness, or at least to someone like me who is given to hand-wringing, what appears to be fearlessness. Perhaps trying new things scares the dickens out of her, but it has never appeared so to me.
Even as a child, I recognized a boldness in her that I envied. With great patience she steered me through not one, but three 4-H sewing projects. I hesitated over every scissor snip and pin placement. Grandma fed material through the sewing machine at dizzying speeds, and I felt the way she floored the serger was criminal. Granted, she had decades of sewing experience on me, but I knew there was more to it than that. She sashayed through her kitchen with the same confidence, showing that rhubarb pie who was in charge.
Years later, I discovered Grandma had painted the delicate china plates that decorated the tip tops of her kitchen cabinets, themselves a daring robin’s egg blue. I also connected all those hours she spent bent over incomprehensible diagrams on her lap with the many intricate needlepoint wall hangings adorning the house. Those masterpieces, framed without glass, presented a horrible temptation. My grubby little hands hovered over the tiny beads and knots, yearning to explore the inviting textures. A similar treasure taunted me from a hushed corner of the living room. The china doll with glamorous black hair and a velvet red dress posed in the protection of a curio case. I left many a nose print on that case trying to study her up close. What’s that? Grandma made that, too? Good heavens, what can’t she do?
My childhood impressions would only be reinforced as an adult. I heard more stories, which I appreciated more fully with age. She went away to college and then to the workplace as a physical therapist when it was rare for women to do either. Would I have been so brave? I also noticed she hadn’t stopped pursuing her passions as she grew older. She took up golf, and learned how to use a computer. Then she downright conquered the technological beast. She started making greeting cards, printing photos, and using the internet with ease.
I know many older people that are content to rarely try anything new, and I suppose they have earned that. There is comfort in routine. Even in my thirties I am drawn to familiar rhythms. Grandma is still trying new recipes, and then emailing them to me already formatted for 3×5 card printing. She doesn’t sit at home, contemplating years past; she is still out living. She meets with friends and family, driving and flying when necessary to make that possible. On an average week, her social calendar is often fuller than mine.
When I am ninety, I pray I am so brave. No that is wrong. I am challenged by her way of life already. I pray I am so brave tomorrow.