Friday, May 30, 2008

Of llamas and grandmas and slot machines

When my grandmother died four years ago today most people were sympathetic, but also pragmatic.

Her death couldn’t have been that big a shock, they reasoned. After all, she was almost 93 years old.

But they were wrong.

Because what they failed to understand is that when someone lives as long as my grandmother did, as vibrantly as she did, you start to think that maybe, just maybe, they will live forever.

And in a way she will.

My grandmother, the way my grandmother led her life, left me with a legacy that strongly endures to this day: she taught me that aging is nothing to fear.

In fact she lived her life in a manner that actually has me eagerly anticipating my senior years. Thanks to her I can’t wait to reinvent myself after I retire from the world of work and child rearing.

I often prattle on to Rob about the possibilities inherent in the third act of our lives. What will we do? Go back to school, get geology degrees and teach seismology in Hawaii? Run a beachfront café in Panama? Teach English in Japan? Build homes in Africa? Raise horses? Llamas?

Thanks to my grandmother, there is no question in my mind that all of these things, and more, are possible.

My grandmother stuck close to home and raised her children until my grandfather died. She was 67. She then embarked on the next chapter of her life: the one in which she, along with her older (!) sister, my Aunt Verna, would travel.

And did they travel!

Damn her age, my grandmother was determined to see the world. She visited Europe, South America, Asia, Australia, the South Pacific and North Africa. One of my favorite pictures ever is of her and Aunt Verna, well into their 80s, posing at the Great Wall of China, shocks of white hair blowing in the wind.

She developed a tart tongue and a taste for slot machines. She was up for anything. She was 91 when one night I was visiting my mother and the two of us decided to make a midnight run to a casino an hour’s drive away. Just for fun we swung by grandma’s and rung the doorbell.

I remember her look of bewilderment as she answered the door in her nightdress, her hair in disarray.

“Come on Grandma! We’re going gambling!”

And she just nodded. “I’ll get my coat.”

My mom and I took my grandmother to Las Vegas for her 90th birthday. On the morning of our departure we woke at 4 a.m. to catch our plane out of Toronto. We landed in Vegas mid morning and grandma went right from the airport to the casinos where she whooped it up until 1 a.m.

She was touring Belize at 92 years of age just months before she died. And she’s in my heart still.

Grandma’s curiosity, her sense of adventure and her utter fearlessness will never leave me, no matter how much I continue to miss her today, and always.

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57 comments:

Momma said...

What a BEAUTIFUL tribute to your grandmother!!! I wrote about my dad's mom on my blog not too long ago. She was 97 when she died from an infection secondary to a fall at our house. Up until then, she lived independently and grew her own vegetables till the end, canning and freezing them for the winter.

It is so inspiring to look at the lives our grandmothers had and wonder where our lives will take us. At 46, if I live to be as old as my grandmother, I'm not even halfway there. Imagine that! So yes, I'm going for grad school and then another (third) career as a teacher/writer. I'm SO looking forward to that!

Peace - D

Melissa said...

Wow, your grandma was extreme! I'm so glad you have so many fond memories of her!

Karen MEG said...

What an amazing woman your grandma was. She really knew how to live life, didn't she? Belize at 92, incredible.

No wonder you miss her so...

KathyLikesPink said...

I miss my grandmothers so much. I think of them every day. Mine didn't do the traveling yours, did, though. What a great life!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I want to grow up to be just like your Grandma!

Laura said...

What a wonderful, wonderful tribute.

We can all hope to have that zest for life at that age. How inspiring!

Thanks for sharing.

Dawn said...

What an amazing lady..she sounds like a lot of fun.

Momma Mary said...

This post reminds me of my gramma. She died at 80, but she LIVED too. As always, great post! And thanks for the memories!

Nowheymama said...

What a role model!

Jenifer said...

A loss is a loss and it does not diminish because someone is older or younger.

What lovely words about your Grandma and what a spunk she was! I think you must have her spirit.

dkuroiwa said...

I loved this!! Isn't it wonderful to be surrounded by such strong older women in our lives!!
My grandma is 96 this year...and she's pissed as heck that the family took her keys to the Cadillac away..."they" believed her to be a menace on the road...she locked everyone out of her house for a while, but now, she just refuses to talk to people sometimes!!! But...when I'm "home", she calls and says that she NEEDS some new shoes (because of all the walking she has to do now!!) and we can take the Caddy if I drive. She is a mad shopper, I tell you...and the stories that girl can tell...sometimes makes even me blush!! I know she's getting weaker...but like you...just because she is as old as she is, do NOT expect her to pass away soon. :-D

oh...BTW...those of us in "teaching English in Japan" vote for "runnin a beachfront cafe in Hawaii"!!! :-D

flutter said...

your grandmother kicked considerable amounts of ass.

Damselfly said...

We should all be so lucky. :)

jakelliesmom said...

There are ample lessons learned from a life well lived. I'm sure you miss her deeply.

painted maypole said...

sounds like a wonderful woman and a great role model!

Adrian said...

What a wonderful grandma you had. You are lucky to have such great memories of her. Mine all died when I was fairly young, so I don't have all these great memories like you do.

JCK said...

What a woman! I loved that adventure you described - stopping by her place and inviting her out to gamble with you and your mom!

Wonderful tribute.

zoom said...

Your grandma sounds very, very cool. I love the middle-of-the-night "I'll get my coat" casino story.

Mental P Mama said...

What an incredible legacy. I am inspired by her just by reading this! Wonderful tribute..."I'll get my coat...."

sky girl said...

Oh geez, it's proof that my hormones are raging when I wanted to bawl while reading this post. :)

She sounds like such a neat lady. I endeavor to be as cool as her.

David said...

I love that you are giving thought to reinventing your lives for your third act. It is a noble goal. Too many of just retire and go quietly away to ski and golf. I will never quit "working", it is what keeps me alive. Like you, I can't wait until Dan is out of the house and I am on to my next stage.

Kathryn said...

She sounds like the best kind of grandma and the best kind of woman. How lucky you are to have had her influence in your life!

Cheri said...

That is the greatest story of a grandma. I aspire to be that grandma. I totally love you, your mom, and your grandma. If you ever decide to go gamble in the middle of the night again, please call me to join you. And I don't even like gambling, but you people are a hoot and I love hoots.

InTheFastLane said...

I love this story!

I also like the idea of our third act. It is funny because as a kid, we think that once we are an adult that we can do whatever we want. And then the responsibilities of families and kids, sometimes still put some of those dreams on hold. But, the dreams are still there, and hopefully there is still time, like your grandmother had, to live out a lot of those dreams.

Manager Mom said...

Your gramma sounds like one chick I wish I could have hung out with...

ModernGear TV said...

Such a lovely way of memorializing your incredible Grandmother! She would have been so much fun to have a drink with! Those are big, and adventurous shoes to fill but her zest for life is something that really must be passed along...

Are You Serious! said...

♡ That's great!!! I can't say that mine were very fun to hang out with! :)

Also I just wanted to let you know that I changed my URL it's now www.areyouseriousthisislife.blogspot.com

Someone already took my old url...

Jen said...

Great post and a lovely tribute to your grandmother.

My grandma died almost exactly 2 years ago. She was quite a character, my brother always said she *would* live forever, simply because it was easier to haunt us from this side, lol.

womaninawindow said...

Yes! Death is never an of course situation but unfortunately, that's what you get from some people. That lady sure has a devilsh smile. Nothing but spunk. Pure inspiration!

GoMommy said...

That's beautiful. My Grandmother was full of spunk and always had a gleam in her eye- you know they won't always be around, but they seem so invincible...

Angella said...

What a beautiful tribute!

Your Grandma was amazing and truly inspiring!

Susiewearsthepants said...

What an energetic woman! I bet her active lifestyle is part of the reason she lived so long. Love this post.

Zoe said...

wow! i hope i can be that lucky! personally when my kids are gone i'm off to africa on medical missions!

OHmommy said...

So beautiful.;)

Chantal said...

I want to be like your Grandma too!!! I do, I do!

daysgoby said...

I loved this post! And I love that picture of all of you....

Lisa said...

That was beautiful. What a lovely woman, your grandmother. Promise to tell Graham all of those stories, so he too has her memory alive and well in his heart!!!

April said...

She sounds like an amazing, inspiring person - you got lucky in the gamble of family there :)

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

She is my kinda lady! My great grandmother on my mom's side and my grandfather on my dad's side are both like that. Living vibrant, full lives, right into their 90's. Both of them are still going strong and I hope to be just like them.
Loved this tribute, wonderful job.

mamatulip said...

I'm still smarting from the loss of my gram, who died last October at 90. And her death shocked us all, even at that age.

This is an amazing post, K.

Indy said...

I love your grandma. What spirit. I hope I am just like her someday. I want to travel and be free like her. I love the story of the midnight trip to the casino. I love it. Thanks for sharing an amazing story of an amazing woman.

a kelly said...

I wanna be like your grandma! Awesome.

Whitenoise said...

You were lucky to have a lady like that in your life.

Casey's trio said...

What a special woman she was! And the picture that you posted of her is so cute. Thanks for sharing. I can see why she is so dearly missed.

Debbie in NC said...

Your Grandma looks and sounds like one heck of a mentor and inspiration for all of us!

Truly wonderful tribute filled with overflowing love!

Thank you for making me smile today :)

Brenda said...

Wow! The middle-of-the-night-casino story is the best. What a woman. I'm glad she had a granddaughter that loved and appreciated her so much.

(Here due to Post of the Day from Authorblog.) Glad I found it!

Karen said...

What a wonderful tribute to your grandma! Every one of us should strive to live like she did.

Marmarbug said...

Your grandmother sounds like she was an awesome person. I hope I still have that spuck at her age.

chelle said...

SOunds like a fabulous woman. Must run in the family.

chelle said...

SOunds like a fabulous woman. Must run in the family.

Sue said...

That's so sweet, I miss my grandma too.

imbeingheldhostage said...

That's exactly what I want to be like, and if I have a granddaughter that remembers me as beautifully as you've done here, I will consider myself successful. Congrats on making David's list!

Shellie said...

How I hope and pray my body and mind will stay healthy enough to be that kind of a grandma, that has an adventure for act 3.

Jaina said...

She sounds like an incredible woman, and a definite inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing :)

Colin Campbell said...

My mums dad was about my age when I was born. He lived for another 40 years, travelling the world. He came to visit me in Singpore in his 80s and we went to Thailand and Indonesia. He came to Australia for my wedding and walked out of the plane with 10 drambuie miniatures. A character.

Your Granny was a character too. I was just sad that my kids didn't really get to know him. They met him when they were little, but have no memories.

indicaspecies said...

A great title, lovely post and a wonderful tribute to your sweet grandmother. Reached here from David's Authorblog. Congratulations.:)

caramama said...

What an inspiration! And an amazing woman. I especially love the story of your midnight stop and her saying "I'll get my coat." What a remarkable woman!

My hubby and I are always talking about what we will do when we retire. I have the same mentality that we could do ANYTHING! I'm hoping we'll live in a house right on a beach someplace warm (probably Florida) and travel all the time.