Halloween was a Star Wars family affair this year, complete with costumes, candy and gorgeous Saturday afternoon autumn weather in a Mt. Airy, Maryland park. The Mt. Airy Mom’s Group, raising money to sponsor free holiday events for local children, organized the day, having participants decorate their car trunks and truck beds for ‘vehicle to vehicle’ trick or treating. Creativity reigned with over 25 different themes. We won 4th place for ‘Best family participation’. Top winners were Alice in Wonderland Tea Party, Mermaid in the Ocean, and Archaeological Dig.
Grand parenting does not come naturally to me like it does to most women, but last Saturday everything seemed to work just right – my storm trooper costume and mask gave me full “acting rights” so I could intimidate kids with a deep voice, marching legs and swinging laser gun. We surprised our granddaughter, Bridget, with our costumes as she expected normal grandparents to visit her. She’s learning that Nana can be full of surprises.
Standing there amongst millennial and Gen X parents shuffling their urchins in all manner of dress around the parking lot, I was hit by just how old I was growing. In just a few weeks, I’ll turn 70. That gives me the designation — one of the oldest living baby boomers. It offends me to watch my face wrinkle, the skin on my arms and hands thin, and age spots bloom around my torso. When did I lose control over my body? Was it all an illusion to think I could fight off aging? I did win a few hard-won battles like keeping my size 8 through careful eating, aerobic strength through running, and muscle strength through lifting weights regularly; but it’s been hard work and it’s getting harder.
I see clearly see that, in the end, the war will be lost. In just the past few months people I know, my peers, are ill as they never were before. In just the past month or two, one friend succumbed to cancer, one is in the fight of her life with it, one just had a piece of her colon removed, and several completed their second and third knee or hip surgeries. My own husband, as you may have read, attacked osteoarthritis with hip replacement surgery. The coming decade will certainly be different from our 60’s.
I’m working my way into this next life phase. A four generation photograph of women was taken in 1948, when I was two years old, provides insight. It’s a formal sepia toned picture surrounded in a metal laced frame. I’m the platinum blond cutie in the center, pushing my face forward eagerly with wide, expectant eyes. To my right is my mother, a woman of 27, smiling and proud, yet realizing what the rest of her life will be. To my left is my grandmother, my mom’s mother, a stiff lipped, reserved woman who would die from a kidney infection before she was 50. Above me is my great, grandmother, Grannie, a 85-year-old immigrant with wisps of silver hair circling her face, her eyes still bright with a face glowing with acceptance and wisdom.
As the years pass, I’ve used that picture to track my life’s arc. I’m now the grandmother; but unlike her and mother, I’m not resigned to a fate dictated by others, but rather I continue to be expectant and excited to live each day positively, to see what may come next. Grannie live her life that way, a woman who immigrated alone from Alsace-Lorraine on a steamer at age 13 to make her way in a new world, not knowing what might be next. And live she did. She lived with us in her last years. When she caught pneumonia at 89, she refused to leave her bed in her nightie and be carried out to the ambulance on a stretcher. She demanded that she be fully dressed and carried sitting in one of our straight-backed kitchen chairs. I watched her leave the house, waved to her from behind the screened front door. She kept her spirit and her dignity. I will be like Grannie.