Violet Mary Maree
(2 July 1918 – …)
To my dearest Granny
93 today. Wow. Wow. Wow.
There was a time in my life when I would have said, “OMG. Ninety-three? That’s ancient!”
I mean, 1918 is prehistoric. Isn’t it?
But, you know what it’s like when you’re young. And stupid.
Now, I’m 40-something and the aging process has me firmly in its grasp. And there’s no getting away from it.
When I was young and physically able, the days were short and the years were long. Everybody’s first 20 years is the longest half of their life. Since my accident the years have become short and the days excruciatingly long. That, along with the humiliation of not being able to pee or poo on my own, has given me a whole new appreciation, and understanding, of the sometimes undignified probabilities of growing old for some.
Gran, spending time with you recently made me realise that getting to an old-age is a privilege that many people are denied. Yet, so many take it for granted. Including me. At one stage I arrogantly assumed that I would live to a ripe old age. After all, longevity is highly prevalent among the women of our family. Right?
As we sat in the warm winter sun having tea together, I looked at you through different eyes – mature eyes. Yes, Gran, your eldest granddaughter has finally grown up.
When I think of you now my eyes fill with tears – not sad tears – but rather, tears of awareness – regret that I didn’t make the most of the opportunity to spend more time with you when you lived with us all those years ago; joy that my son (your eldest great-grandchild) has the privilege of truly knowing you; panic because I want to spend a lot more time with you because you have so much to teach and I have so much more to learn from you; admiration for everything you are; appreciation of the true blessing you are to me and your entire family.
Without you being aware of it you have taught me many lessons by merely living your life with grace and dignity.
You have given me the gift of:
Faith: You and Oupa* gave me my first Bible. I still have it.
Faithfulness: You and Oupa* got married when you were at the tender age of 20. You have three very special and beautiful daughters. You were a fine example of the true meaning of marriage. You stayed faithful to him and your shared love by choosing to be alone for about 30 years without him by your side and you still speak so fondly of him. We all loved him deeply. I remember feeling shame at my divorce, the first in the family, as we were all taught that marriage is for life.
Honesty: The first, and last, time I ever lied to you as a little girl you put pepper in my mouth. Sheesh Gran, that stuff was hot. I only just started eating it again a few months ago.
Work Ethic: I remember how you and Oupa* woke up at 4:30 AM to have tea together before he went off to work. Then, I would go to work with you for the day. Even after you retired, you were always busy doing something with enthusiasm.
Strength: I watched how you picked up the pieces after Oupa* died, stayed strong for your family and carried on with life.
Courage: Even at the age of 90-something you are not afraid to get on a plane by yourself and fly across the country to one of your children. You gave me the courage to do the same except I needed my care assistant. Old age ain’t no place for sissies. And neither is disability.
Compassion: You unselfishly moved in with your older sister to take care of your terminally ill brother. You gave generously of your time to mend broken toys for charity for many years.
Perceptiveness: You may be a little hard of hearing but you see things in others that most of us miss. You observe quietly and you’re usually a good judge of character.
Food Favourites: You made us the most divine roast chicken every time we went out to the dam which is still my favourite dish finished off with your recipe of lemon-meringue-without-the-meringue. It’s the best meal on the planet.
Independence: You like to do things for yourself in your own way and you’re fiercely independent to this day.
Family: You are extremely protective of your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren always putting them first. Even in your grand age anyone of your three daughters wouldn’t hesitate to have you live with them and that includes grandchildren. You can live with me any day, Gran. At the age of 90 you took on a huge responsibility of taking care of a baby, your tiny great-grandson, during the day. Where do you get the energy? Amazing.
Intelligence: Your mind is incredibly sharp and you exercise it daily. You have been doing crossword puzzles for as long as I can remember and still going strong.
Health: Since I was paralysed, I’ve often joked that I am trapped inside an 80-year-old body. But, when I compare to it to yours, I see how truly amazing you are. You’re fit and walk so fast that even your daughters struggle to keep up with you. You continue to take good care of your body, following doctor’s orders.
Pride: You always take pride in everything you do, working meticulously and methodically. You take pride in your appearance – always neat and clean.
Beauty: I’ve seen some photographs of you on your wedding day and you are genuinely beautiful. To me, you always look exactly as you do now because your true beauty is in your heart, mind and soul.
Wisdom: You have few earthly possessions yet, you are satisfied. You are living proof that a contented mind and a loving heart is the truest wisdom.
Age, like paralysis, is a prison from which we cannot escape but, with our genes we can handle anything that life throws at us.
Oh, I definitely got my stubbornness from you. But, I’m proudly stubborn. It has navigated me through many tough times.
My fondest memory of you my Darling Granny is playing with all that lovely, soft, stretchy skin on your hands when I was little and asking you over and over again: “Granny, why are your hands like this?” And you would always answer patiently: “I don’t know, my girl, maybe I’m just old.”
But, you were wrong. You have never been old.
And my wish is that I can play with that lovely skin on your hands. Just. One. More. Time.
Oh, by the way, happy birthday to my sweet and special Granny.
I love you.
Oupa* Afrikaans for Granddad.