My grandmother turns 90 tomorrow.
As in ninety years.
As in almost exactly twice my age—which will be 45 in eight weeks unless I discover the fountain of youth between now and October 5th.
(Any hints about its locale will be kept between you, me and Ponce de Leon. Pinkie swear.)
My grandma Renis (which thankfully rhymes with “tennis”) was 45 when I was born.
It’s strange for me to consider that when she was my age, Renis Ann Anderson was a grandmother already. Even stranger still to think of her being—like me—a wife and mother. A sister, daughter, friend.
Because grandmas are oatmeal cookies and Shalimar perfume; a sweater over shoulders not yet chilly and bobby pins to keep the hair out of your eyes. They are soft skin and warm embraces; gentle compliments for even sub-par achievements. Enthusiastic claps for performances they’ve already witnessed countless times.
My grandmother is a competitive player of games, a fierce lover of her dog, a devoted wife of 71 years.
She reads my blog posts and the comments (for better or worse); she thinks the oil paintings I created when I was ten are beautiful, that the words I’ve written in this lifetime are genius.
She sees only the best sides of me—by design.
Upon reflection, I think my grandmother is one of the few people on Earth who has been able to love me unconditionally—as I expect I will love my own grandchildren and great-grandchildren, should I be lucky enough to have them.
Someday. Not soon. In fact, I hope much later.
I wonder now if they will look at me then and see who I really am:
A flawed person, whose attempts sometimes end in failure; a girl who has been at times selfish, mean or deceptive; a woman who’s striven to be better in the face of her faltering, who still dares to dream and reach and hope and carry on.
I suppose they won’t.
In fact, we are probably meant to know some people only by their bright and shiny surfaces; their goodness and light. They are our examples, our role models; the ones we seek always to please and to make proud.
I’ve spent more than four decades being a daughter, grandchild, sister, friend. In the past two, I added wife and mother to the mix. Eventually I hope to be a grandma, as well. And spending time with my own grandmother inspires me to make this next half of my life better than the first.
To be better in every way—or at least the ways over which I have control.
I’ve known Reny Anderson my entire life but I’ve witnessed only a sliver of her whole self; her lows and highs, joys and sorrows; her losses, wins and ties. I’ve loved the bright and shiny surface that she’s shown her granddaughters and great grandchildren.
But I also know there’s more to her. And I accept that part, too. Just like she accepts me despite my imperfections.
I hope someday to be worthy of this unconditional love, which means the next forty-five years are going to be busy for us both.
So thank you, Grandma. For all that you are. For all that you’ve done.
And of course for all the oatmeal cookies.
With much (much much much) love,