After dawning my super-powerful, diamond-crusted Grammie cape, I checked my eye makeup one more time before adjusting my mask and spraying one final mist of liquid glue to my curls. Despite the fact my first grandson, Bo, had a new name for me (Old Grandma) I was determined to not then, not ever, show my age. So out the door I ran to monitor the afternoon play on the cul-de-sac.
Life in a neighborhood filled with small children is busy. There are balls to chase, tiny bodies to search for in bushes, and tricycles, scooters, and two-wheel minibikes to direct so no one runs into one another. Proud all was safe on my watch, I followed my charges everywhere they went (so much so, I was often told to go away). Smiling extra broadly over my accomplishment that all was well, I took a breath, knowing Mom and Dad would take over in ten minutes. I was home free! That is until it happened. Just as I looked away to care for my grandsons, I was run into by another three-year-old in her motorized speed racer.
“Oh my God!” I whelped in pain as I clung to Mac, my second grandchild, who had been in my arms at impact. Then, limping away, I was grateful I didn’t drop him when I heard a meek voice ask, “Are you okay?” The woman (a true Old Grandma) had been asleep on her watch, and she proceeded to apologize for her grandchild’s driving. “I was watching for cars. I didn’t think to watch where she was going,” she said. We both learned that day that child drivers can be far more dangerous than adults.
Seeing the tears begin to well in her errant granddaughter’s eyes, I feigned perfect health, all while wanting to scream every four-letter word in the Urban Dictionary. The last thing I needed, or wanted, was another surgery on my legs. As far as I was concerned, seven procedures—six under the knife—were more than enough. If I were put on disability leave, how would I be able to keep up with all my current blessings—Bo, Mac, Kai, and Jordan, my four grandchildren all under the age of three.
When I became a grandmother for the first time at sixty-five, I admit I panicked a little. I desperately wanted to leave a loving mark on them all, and that doesn’t happen if you’re not present. So, for the past three years, I traveled from home to home, visiting the little darlings every few weeks, anxiously awaiting the arrival of that first smile that said, “I know who you are!” And not one that screamed, “Here comes that strange lady again.”
But soon there came bigger a fear. My genuine angst shifted from would they recognize me to would I be able to keep up with them all.
Long ago, I watched my mother suffer as her body deteriorated with each grandchild I presented. Picking newborns up and holding them typically lasted no more than ten minutes before she had to hand them back. As for rocking them to sleep, sadly, that was just a memory she held of her time with her babies. Her body couldn’t withstand the weight of their growing bodies, nor could she get on the floor to play. Remembering this and how she couldn’t be the grandmother she wanted to be, it became my mission that my life would be different. No matter how the years advanced, I wouldn’t allow myself to become an old woman.
At first, my idea for long-lasting youth came with exercise and weightlifting. Just as babies add pounds to their little bodies, I added extra weight in my dumbbells when I felt I was struggling to hold them. While running is no longer my go-to form of exercise (that ended after two total hip replacements), I still power walked, which helped me stay at least two steps ahead of these mighty tinies. I ate healthily, drank my wine moderately, and got lots of sleep when not with them.
But it wasn’t long before I realized staying young would be more about my mind than defeating the laws of gravity and the natural aging process. Remembering what it was like to be young myself created the energy and magic much more than the ability to walk five miles with hand weights. I went to the place of my youth in my memories—that place where every day I found wonder and beauty in the world around me. That place where curiosity reigns supreme, and I want to constantly ask “Why?”, much to my mother’s exhaustion. To that time in my life where fun was the main objective in everything I did. And let’s face it, that’s what all children want. We’ve heard it all before: true aging is a state of mind, not the body. I invite you to rediscover your youthful state of mind.
So, while Bo may giggle each time he calls me “Old Grandma,” I’ll laugh in return because while it’s true I don’t look like I once did, I refuse to let my age dictate how old I become! I plan to continue to be that crazy Grammie who finds joy in painting and decorating rocks, despite the terrible mess to clean up afterward. I’ll climb into the sandbox to play monster trucks, even though it will take me longer to climb out than in. And I’ll read Goodnight Moon over and over until I can recite the story by heart because it brings them joy, and when they have joy, so do I.
Today, I have four precious grandchildren. Hopefully, one day, there’ll be even more to add to our list of family members. And as they grow older, so will I. There’s no getting around that one. But even if I can no longer walk, I’ll be driven to be that one adult in the room who never acts like one. Their childhood is fleeting. Hell, all of life is, and I don’t plan to miss a beat. As far as I’m concerned, being old is giving up. And that I refuse to do!
So, Old Grandmas and Grandpas, let’s unite and show them! In the end, it will be our spirit they remember the most—not whether we could climb a tree or how fast we could run. No, it will be the smiles on our faces when they’re present, the laughter from our bellies when they tell a story, and the love in our hearts that will keep us connected through the years, the same love that will keep us from ever becoming truly old.
Jackie with her two older grandsons – her active little monkeys