This has been a landmark week in the history of our family: my beloved Grandma was 95 yesterday.
I’ve mentioned before how much I admire this strong and stylish woman, but it wasn’t always the case. When I was a child, my grandparents lived more than a hundred miles away, so I didn’t really get to know Grandma until Grandad died and she came to live with my mom. While that entailed a lot of sacrifices for mom – not least converting her living room into Grandma’s bedroom – I’m really glad it happened, otherwise I might not have got to know this wonderful lady in all her kind, stubborn and sometimes infuriating ways.
For an old lady, she has a surprisingly modern mindset, and is – or appears to be – unfazed by new-fangled ideas, such as gay marriage, and unperturbed by her granddaughter’s single motherhood.
(Mind you, there were probably more than a few single mothers knocking around after the war, which probably makes it less of a thing. In fact, anyone who’s lived through wartime probably sees very many non-standard circumstances as “less of a thing”, but that’s another story…)
Although Grandma has, undeniably, got weaker over the last year – she can no longer walk, her eyesight isn’t what it was and if you want an answer to your question, you’d better ask it on her good side and make sure her hearing aid is set to max. – I’m always surprised by the strength of her spirit.
A lesser woman, myself possibly included, would surely have been ground down by the gradual loss of life’s pleasures, such as reading her beloved Bolton News and keeping track of the Wanderers’ progress in the Championship, but Grandma’s vital spark remains surprisingly undiminished.
True, she’s not the fashionista she once was, but she’s still keen to make sure her outfits coordinate and would always prefer to be seen with her beads than without – even if her teeth are slowly becoming an optional extra.
I can only imagine how much has changed in her lifetime. What I can’t really imagine is how it feels to be 95, and to know that, unless life takes a very surprising turn, you can count your remaining birthdays on the fingers of one hand.
But despite Grandma’s apparent insouciance around each new depletion of her abilities, watching her grow old has made me more afraid of aging than anything else. As an older mother, I’m terrified that age will catch up with me before I’ve properly provided for my son, before he’s well and truly settled on his life path … and there’ll be no one left to help him on his way.
Still, it looks as though the genetics are on my side. If Grandma can make it to 95, there’s no reason for me to be any different. And, at the tender age of not-quite-five, he’s adamant that he’ll, “live with you FOREVER, Mummy” – that is, if current rules remain unchanged and he’s unable to actually marry me when he grows up.
Still a cuddly bundle of infantile sweetness, he’s doted on by all the women in our family – not least Grandma, who quite literally adores him. He, in his turn, fuels her adoration by fetching and carrying her personal effects and attempting to push her wheelchair whenever we take her on an adventure … such as today’s birthday jaunt down by the river.
We’re fortunate that the clouds break, and days upon days of grey cloud and rain are punctuated by glorious sunshine. We ask a passer-by to take a photo … and there we are, frozen for posterity: four generations – three strong, single women and the small, sweet subject of their affections. We took the same photo last year.
I hope we can take it again the next.