Growing up in the 60s visiting my grandparents wasn’t always a warm, fuzzy experience. Quite frankly, my grandparents terrified me. My maternal grandparents were loud, full-blooded Sicilian immigrants, who despite having lived in the country for 30 years by the time I arrived, refused to speak English. A weekend visit with Grandma and Grandpa V. required much hand-waving, head shaking and guttural grunts as we tried to convey our mutual misunderstanding of one another.
I never met my paternal grandfather but my father’s mother, although English speaking, was equally as scary. This grandmother was the epitome of a woman who refused to grow old gracefully. Grandma C. fought the aging process with every fiber of her being. She wore outrageous wigs, spent scads of money on anti-aging products and dressed like a woman half her age. Her endless pursuit of the fountain of youth had quite the opposite affect and at times merely accelerated the natural aging process.
When I was a teenager my grandparents were in their 70s. I remember thinking they were older than dirt and looked more like 100 than 70-something. They had little energy for much beyond a walk around the block which typically sent them to their recliners for marathon napping.
Nowadays with so many medical advances, seniors appear to live longer, healthier and more active lifestyles than their counterparts of 30, 40 or 50 years ago. Because I’ve always been an exercise junkie, I make my daily workout a priority and I try to eat fairly healthy. It’s a constant race between my ego and Father Time to keep decay away. The older I get, I’m starting to think 70 isn’t old at all!
There are things our mothers and grandmothers never shared with us about what actually happens to a woman’s body once she reaches a certain age that I believe they were morally obligated to divulge, but didn’t … so I will.
Here I am knocking on 60’s door but somehow in spite of my best efforts, I fear I’m slowly morphing into my “old-beyond-their-years” grandmothers. Like Grandma C., I’m frequently duped into buying creams and make-up that will slow the aging process. In my defense at least, I’ve graduated from the juniors section to a more mature Women’s World section of the department store. Loosely translated, these clothes may as well be labeled “Cloaking Devices,” as this style of clothing make us invisible to anyone over the age of 30.
The rounded menopausal midriff that sits about my midsection that I lovingly refer to as my personal floatation device refuses to relinquish its hold on me. Crunches and sit-ups, need not apply. Waste-O — time-O! The fact that a huge percentage of women in my age category are sporting the same PFD provides little comfort. It’s true what “they” say that misery loves company and we ALL are wearing the same accessory.
Each morning I wake to find I’ve developed a new spot, dot, wrinkle or line that most certainly wasn’t there when I closed my eyes the night before. My body is speckled with tiny little red freckles that my gynecologist merely classifies as “old lady moles.” I believe the official medical term is “grannysplotchiola.” At first these pink pigments only appeared on my stomach but now have migrated to my arms, legs and the outer perimeter of my scalp line. On a positive note, the lovely reddish moles complement the deep rich color of the liver spots that compete for attention on my arms, legs, face and hands.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, something lumpy and bumpy seems to have attached itself to my upper arms – or the front side of my bingo, bat waving, wind-beneath-my wings, saggy bi-ceps. Sadly, I recognize this to be similar in texture to the cellulite that has been my thighs constant companion for years. Nobody told me this cottage cheesy enemy of the flesh would infiltrate other body parts beyond the hips, thighs and buttocks. My entire body now looks like there’s been a hostile takeover by this cellulitis dermatitis and my only defense is three-quarter length sleeves and capri pants. No amount of weight lifting or push-ups will combat this anomaly.
Waking each morning is a competition between my inner and outer beauty; a contest of wills – if you will. Will my face display the puffiness of a night spent from an insomniatic night of tossing and turning? Will my bladder hold long enough for me to hobble to the bathroom? Will my popping and creaking joints wake the dogs? Will I be able to walk at all on arthritic limbs and feet that carried the load of a mother’s worry, guilt and self-condemnation for decades regarding the rearing of my three grown children? Will more of those tiny, red broken capillaries have appeared around my nose and chin overnight making my face look more like a well-traveled road map than the easy, breezy, beautiful Cover Girl I was promised?
Beyond the outer progression of time and the inner breakdown of joints and muscle mass, there is the mental and the … the … er – um, oh snap! I forgot what the point was I wanted to make! Oh yeah, the memory is “verstooken,” meaning it stinks! Even though most days I still think like a young person, and feel little different in my brain than I did 40 years ago, all of these inner and outer reminders reinforce that I am in fact, now considered a senior citizen.
How quickly the time has passed. Suddenly my mirror is crowded with images of not just me – but my mother and yes … my grandmothers have all been making appearances as of late. Dear Lord, is that what I look like now?
Now that I myself am a grandmother, I try to see myself through my only grandchild’s eyes. Does this amazing young man approaching his 15th birthday look at me and think I’m older than dirt? Does he roll his eyes when I act like a teenager on Thunder Mountain at Disneyland? Does he get embarrassed when I search for change and count out the exact amount when I buy him dinner at McDonalds? Does he wish he could be anywhere else when I sing along to the 70s music blaring through the sound system at the grocery store?
Chances are the answers to all of these questions are “yes.” Even though he feels there are light years between his age and mine, the fact is he will miss me when I’m gone because grandparents are one of a kind – even though we’re all basically alike.
I for one intend to enjoy the ride and like Grandma C. fight it tooth and nail. Hopefully, Lord willing, I’ll be around long enough to become an embarrassment to my children and their children’s children. For what is life if not to leave a legacy of kookiness and “grandma-ness” for future generations?
Women nowadays are looking better than ever well into their 50s, 60s and older due largely in part to our Hollywood “role models.” If you can’t beat back Father Time with moisturizer and gym memberships then, Ladies, it’s time to embrace the change!
Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life. Proverbs 16:31 (NLT)
Blessings in Christ and as always … happy reading!
“Aunt Bea” Frances Bavier, Age 58 (1960) Courtesy of IMDb
Kris Jenner, “Momager,” Age 58 (2015) Courtesy of IMDb
Me – Age 57 (on the left) Age 17 (on the right)