Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lessons About Living From a 93-Year Old

Act #156:  Listen to the wisdom of the past.

Last week I spent an entire day with my husband's 93 year-old grandmother, Lorraine.  Her husband was hospitalized after falling and undergoing surgery in his brain for a blood clot.  Her own health, had been declining over the past few years, and I didn't want her to be alone in the home that they shared.  So I went and literally just sat with her to keep her company, and to see if she needed help with anything. I won't lie -all these years I thought she spent her days sitting in front of the television watching the Game Show Network, and boy was I wrong.  I came to distract her and help her through a rough time, I left with a new respect for someone I now strive to become, if I'm lucky enough to live to be 93.

Don't ever stop being curious.
While I was there, I was exchanging texts about her husband's condition with my sister-in-law, who was staked out at the hospital.  Lorraine stared at me curiously for a while and then finally walked over to me and asked me to explain exactly how I was reporting this information to her without even talking to anyone out loud!  

....or stubborn.
The guy who mows her lawn came by that day and began to start up his engine and get to work.  Lorraine told me that she wanted to go out there to greet him but I urged her to let him finish first so that she didn't have to make the trek outside in the heat.  Before I knew it, she was out in the middle of the lawn telling her lawnmower all about her husband's hospitalization.  As I listened in on the conversation, it became clear that the lawnmower was more than someone who took care of the lawn.  A full-time public school teacher, he did lawn work over the summers and had become someone that Lorraine and her husband considered a friend.

Embrace newness.
So I'm that "adventurous" eater in the family who often shows up at painfully traditional family meals with things like cold glass noodle salad or Israeli couscous.  Lorraine is quite literally the only family member that bypasses the baked mac and cheese and buttered mashed potatoes and dives right into my dishes. 

Look good...for yourself.
Lorraine's mobility limitations have made it difficult for her to leave the house very much.  She stopped going to the grocery store and church several years ago.  Despite this, she still irons all of her clothes - jut to wear around the house, told me all bout her daily curling iron routine, and most recently, she bought a very cool new pair of shoes.

Pave your own way.
That day I saw a black and white photo of a vibrant and bold 18-year old Lorraine with big brown curls.  I learned that during World War II, she worked in a Westinghouse factory, and that when her first husband died, she was left to raise two young boys alone.  Wow.  All this time, I've been in the presence of an early feminist who probably didn't even know the term.  She just was.  Thank you, Lorraine.


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