She had been staring at me for a long time. She was sitting at the dining room table and I was busy working in the kitchen. I’ve found that if I wait, whatever is on her mind will come out with less prodding than if I interrupt her thoughts.
Finally, as I spun around in my kitchen from the sink to the stove – in the same spot that Officer Friendly and I would dance sometimes before breakfast, Goodnight said, “Gram? Do you feel like you’re getting older?”
There was long pause. I had a frying pan in my hand and wasn’t sure where she was going with this question. I must have waited long enough because she added, ” . . . because you don’t look it.”
Whew! It must have been the twirly thing from the sink to the stove that gave the impression of clinging to – youth?
GN: But, I mean, you walk like you’re getting older, but you don’t look like you’re getting older.
So much on her mind. People still confuse me for her mother, but apparently not if they see me walk.
GN: I was just wondering if you could feel it – I mean do you feel any different?
Gram: I do, but not in the ways you may think. I’m sadder than I thought I would be at this age, but that’s because I miss your mother, Officer Friendly, and Mr. Gr8. I feel that difference and it feels like emptiness. I’m more tired than I thought I would be at this age, but that’s because I’m still busy working a full-time job and raising a younger child than my own would be at this time. I feel that difference, too. The difference is an earlier bedtime than I had when I was younger.
But . . . I’m calmer than I used to be. I have experience raising a girl already, so this time around is easier in some ways. I feel that difference. I’m happy to have you here with me. I get to go to basketball games and softball games and track meets and concerts and recitals and Drama Club productions and movies that I may not attend if I were living alone. I feel that difference, too. I’m richer for it all.
I know I have joints that make audible noises when I move, but the good news is I can still move. I may move slower, but I get to enjoy the journey a little longer. I feel better for noticing more and missing less.
Do I feel like I’m getting older? Yes, of course, especially when I pull out winter boots that are older than you are, or when I’m climbing down from the top of the bleachers when your track meets are over. But I feel older in a good way when I send you off to bed knowing you will sleep well because you’ve had some of my homemade soup and muffins for an evening meal on a chilly night. The older I become, the more soups I’ve made and I feel that difference. The difference is confidence.
I know more than I used to because I’ve passed grades one-seven three times: the first time for myself when I was young, the second time with your mother as she was growing up, and now with you! I still love the science fair projects and the math homework, and I love to read what you’ve done when you have a writing assignment. The difference is a new appreciation for the world through your eyes.
I feel older as new challenges present themselves and I remain calm. I am slower to panic. The difference is peace.
Do I feel older? Absolutely! My knees remind me of my age as I try to fall asleep every night . . . but I know more songs than I did at your age. I’ve read more books than you could at your age. There is so much more that can make me laugh – and so much more that can make me cry. But that’s not a bad thing. If my knees hurt, it’s because I’ve used them – for scrubbing the floors, for bouncing your mother and you on them . . . for praying. If my heart hurts, it’s because I’ve used it too – for loving. Love lost – like your mother, or Officer Friendly, or Mr. Gr8 – is love that still remains. If my knees hurt when I fall asleep, then victory is waking up again the next morning to take in another day.
I feel older when you listen to your music, because it isn’t familiar to me. I’m okay with that. When your music fills the house , it usually comes with your dancing and singing and it reminds me that I’m not alone . . . I feel that difference. The difference is – you.
Dear Goodnight: I feel older and I look older, too. When did all the shiny new white hair poke through? Others may call it silver, but I’m going for white like your Gr8′s mom. I look like her and if I favor her, then maybe I’ll be blessed with white hair and enough time to watch you grow up. After all, isn’t that what’s really on your mind? I feel like I’m getting older and it’s all . . . very good.