|My beautiful and precious "Grammie"|
My “Grammie” , Avis Spear, turned 100 years old last month. This photo is from her birthday party where over 50 people joined in her celebration. The young and the old from all over her part of Maine, plus her last surviving son, my uncle from Florida, joined to celebrate the birth and the life of this lovely woman.
Grammie is the youngest old person you would ever meet. She doesn’t focus on herself or her own r aches and pains--she is a “there you are” kind of person. Grammie wants to know about your life; what kinds of things you do that make you laugh; how you spend your days; and what are your passions.
Of course, she’s suffered. She lived a hard life as a child and married young, , with a baby on the way--my dad. Thankfully, she and my Grampie were madly in love and remained that way for 67 years when he died.
She suffered through three sons being in Korea at the same time; two seriously injured. All three came back, thankfully. Still, she’s outlived 2 of her three sons.
She’s intimately familiar with death and grieving. Besides her husband and two sons; she’s lost 4 of her 5 siblings; a boyfriend she fell in love with after Grampie died; and too many extended family members and friends to count.
One day when I called her, she said quite casually, “You know how every morning Maria and I meet for coffee and then she plays the piano and we sing? Well, yesterday, I went to meet her at her apartment, and found her dead. Just like that, another friend gone.”
Just like that. She’s lost so many people that when I visit her, she likes to walk through the cemetery because, she says, “that’s where everybody I know is.” Actually she says it this way: “thaht’s wha-ah eh-vah-ree-bahdy eye-ah know is”
She’s far from depressed about it all, though. Instead, she says this with a smile, then proceeds with her hallmark humor: The last time I was with her in the cemetery, standing at the foot of she and Grampie’s burial plots, she looked at her empty spot and said with a wicked grin,
“Mah-bah I shu-ud lah down on th-eh ground to ma-hk shur I still f-aht the-eh spahce, Ayuh?”
Translated: “Maybe I should lie dawn on the ground to make sure I still fit the space, yes?”
Humor and laughter has always been central to how she responds to life, as it was with my Grampie. Whenever the conversation turns too sad or negative, she is quick to lighten things up.
Grammie also carries a spark of joy with her-- I call her a “happy hen” because whenever she is working in the kitchen, or tidying up the house...or doing any other kind of task, she hums like this, “Hm, hm, hm.. Hmm. hm, hm” in a sing-songy kind of way that reminds me of how chickens cluck in a barnyard.
She’s always lived simply. She’s desired little, and appreciated all she has. She surrounds herself with good memories and happy colors--maybe her home was not the style of the day--but it was always comfortable and inviting--and smelled of home-made molasses cookies, or my favorite, whoopie pies!
Grammie chooses to believe that God knows what he’s doing even when she doesn’t “get it”. The older she’s gotten, the less she’s worried about it, although, she’s had her own struggles with anxiety in her life. She can’t even say why she has them, like many people. Perhaps just the accumulation of all she’s lost along the way.
My family will go to Maine the end of this month for a week to vacation at a lake close to Grammie. We can’t wait to have a late birthday celebration with her. I’ve often asked her, “Can’t you wait for me to grow old with you?” Her reply, “I don’t know. It ap-eahs I mi-aht juhst be doin’ th-aht”
Each of us can choose how we’ll live.
I often ask myself an others, “Are you an ill person?
Or, “Are you a person who has an illness?”
One defines you, the other says illness will not be the major part of your life.
I alternate back and forth...how about you?
Until next time,
Side Note: The day before Grammie’s birthday, she went to another party for someone who shared the same calendar birthday as her’s. A baby turning one. I’m hoping for a photo of the two of them together; one at the beginning of her life and one near the end.