“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.” Proverbs 16:31. I beg to differ. I have gray hair, but not so sure about the godly life part. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on the Most Wanted list, but I’m not going to feign righteousness and a godly life either. Can anyone truly claim a godly life?
Our culture worships youth, no news flash in that statement. Magazine covers, movies, television programs, and businesses cater to the youth, market to those under thirty, with no thought to the aged, i.e. anyone over the age of thirty. Now that I am well past thirty, few things in life seem more clear. We weren’t always obsessed with youth, however. I grew up in a time when the older generation was respected. If an older person walked into a room and there were no seats available, the younger were expected to offer their seat to the elder. Some cultures still esteem their elders instead of sweeping them under the carpet. The Native Americans view them as a source of wisdom and expect the elders to pass down the wisdom accumulated over a lifetime. They don’t tuck their elders out of sight in homes and facilities for the aged and let others care for them until death. And the Native Americans are only one of several cultures who respect their elderly.
The baby boom generation is said to be the largest population of seniors our country has seen to date. Think of the accumulated wealth of knowledge and wisdom on every corner, in every neighborhood, city, and state in the nation. Granted, most of us won’t win any prizes for understanding technological advances, just ask my children, but we do have a head full of wisdom learned while attending the School of Hard Knocks.
My mom was a single parent while my brother and I were growing up so my grandparents and aunts stepped in to help where they could. We lived across the street from my grandparents and most days after school I hung out with my grandmother, and when my grandpa was off, I would hang with him, too. I didn’t fully appreciate their efforts at the time, but I learned a lot. My grandmother was the quintessential homemaker, always had something delicious baking in the oven, homemade bread, cookies, cakes, all from scratch, and canned her own vegetables, and chickens for storage in the root cellar. Does anyone under the age of 50 know what a root cellar is, or that chickens can be canned?
My grandpa bought as much as possible fresh and in bulk; chickens my grandmother would need to pluck and singe before freezing or canning (the chickens had already been butchered, of course), sides of beef, and during smelt runs (smelt are little silver fish), he brought home tubs of smelt I would help gut and prepare for a fish fry. Many a Sunday afternoon I would ride along with him to the local creamery to buy heavy cream, butter, and cheese. In those days the local milkman delivered milk in glass jars right to your door in the morning. We didn’t live in the dark ages by any means, but life was much simpler.
As a family we played games in the evenings and on Sunday afternoons; games like Scrabble and various card games that required strategy and thinking. I credit Scrabble with my spelling skills. Many afternoons, especially in the winter months, I sat at my grandmother’s knee and talked with her while she crocheted or knitted. She corrected my grammar when necessary and I never resented it, believing she knew better than I. My grandmother was an elegant woman, in my opinion, her hands told the story of years of hard work, yet still beautiful in their own right. Neither of my grandparents was the touchy-feely type, but I knew they loved me.
One Saturday afternoon when I was about 10 years old the doorbell rang. My mom was putting curlers in my grandmother’s hair in preparation for church the next morning, so I ran to answer the door. On the other side of the door stood two people, religious tracts in hand, asking if I believed I was going to heaven. I assumed so, I went to church and Sunday School, and no one had ever told me differently. According to their tracts, Jesus was coming soon, the world was scheduled for destruction and we best heed their warning. I’m not going to lie, the conversation was disturbing, especially for a young kid. I politely listened, then told them we already went to church and there was no one available at that moment to speak further with them. Leaving their tracts behind they were on their way. I ran to my grandmother, tracts in hand, and told her what the people at the front door had said. She chuckled a bit, then said she had heard that nonsense since she was a little girl; the world was still here and Jesus still on His throne. No worries, I had gotten the scoop from my grandmother’s mouth who I trusted with my life and had no reason to doubt. Forty-plus years later and planet earth is still spinning on its axis and Jesus is right where He has always been.
My favorite memories with my grandmother involved my kids. They were not able to truly get to know her because of the abusive marriage and family life we led while she was alive. I thought of her more often than I can count, and have many saved letters and recipes she shared with me since we lived in different states. She did see them as babies, though. We had traveled to my home state on two occasions while they were very young; once right after my oldest was born, and once when the twins were just under a year old. My ex-husband didn’t consider my grandmother a threat, and actually believed she liked him, so he was more inclined to allow her access. She flew down shortly after the twins were born and stayed a few days. By this time she was late 70’s, possibly 80 years old. I cherish a picture of her sitting in a rocking chair in our living room holding my twin girls with my son standing next to her. The smile on her face radiated pure love and joy.
Our house at the time had 3 levels; the upper level, the master bedroom loft, overlooked the great room. There was a large bathtub in the room, too, with a skylight overhead. The stairs leading up to the loft were split log; beautiful, but a bit scary to climb since they had no riser to close the back of the stairs. While my grandmother was visiting, she needed to bathe and it made more sense to use the loft tub than the main level bathroom as I would need to help her and the loft afforded me more space to maneuver. We talked about the logistics and decided to go for it. Mostly I provided stability as we climbed the stairs together and got her down into the tub. What a time we had laughing as I helped with her bath. It was also a sacred time for me; the tables had turned. The same wrinkled, arthritic hands that held my babies earlier that day had bathed me as a child; now my turn had come to provide her the care she needed.
Abusers tend to isolate their victims and my ex-husband was no different. I never got to see my grandmother again. He so thoroughly isolated us from my extended family I wasn’t told when she lay in a hospital bed near the end of life. Since we divorced and I was able to reconnect with family, I learned of her remaining years and final moments. The heartache of not being able to spend her last years and moments with her is safely tucked inside my heart.
I owe my grandparents, mom, and aunts much for passing along wisdom and skills lost to our hi-tech and often superficial society. Life is a never-ending cycle; the young are to learn from the wise and add their accumulated wisdom to the next generation when it is their turn. Now I am the one with a crown of glory and I think I have a few things to pass on should any want to learn at my knee…..
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