15 April 2009


The Mister's grandmother turns ninety-four years old today. This boggles my mind. First, because of the sheer length of that time, nearly a century, enough to have lived through wars and dictatorships and so much of this world's crazy history. Enough to remember this neighborhood when it was a town outside of Barcelona, to remember how she could see clear from the balcony of their apartment (the one the Mister and I live in today) across the farmers' fields and to the skyline of the city.

Second, because if you look at her, you would never guess that she has lived for ninety-four years. Yes, there are a few lines, but don't let her twinkly wrinkled face fool you. She has more energy and a busier social calendar than me. Seriously. I often call to find her out with one of her girlfriends, either shopping or attending mass or bringing them an example of the delicate lacework that she makes by hand. She is a whirlwind of activity, making meals for others even when she isn't expecting company, just in case someone stops by. We can't get her to stay seated at the table. She has a greener than green thumb; her balcony is full of beautiful plants and bursting with color year round.

Her memory is also better than mine; she has a clear mental map of just about every establishment in this neighborhood and can perfectly recall what each shop used to be, the owners' names and those of their children. She remembers events from the lives of her friends, long-gone family, and neighbors in detail, and often recounts their stories to me. She tells me of her childhood working as a maid in a convent in exchange for her board and schooling, of her young adulthood as a seamstress in the factory a few meters from where she now lives, of her marriage and the many trips she took with the Mister's grandfather. Once in a while, she tells me stories of her experiences during the Civil War, of what she saw and the fear she endured.

When I spend time with her, as I did today, bringing her flowers in the morning and stopping by for lunch at her house (faves a la catalana again, yum!) , I wonder what she was like when she was younger, and conversely, I wonder what I will be like as an old woman.

This kind of speculation is a favorite pastime of mine. On the street I pass so many versions of what an elderly person looks like, women twenty years her junior with curved backs and canes, or women like her who still move with a spring in their step, straight thin ladies and round pillowy ladies, some with silver hair and some with thinning hair and some with brown. I envision myself as an old woman, and it's like trying to imagine a me who is not me, a body that is mine but not mine, a wrinklier and creakier shadow of myself superimposed over this thirty-year-old frame. This is similar to trying to imagine myself pregnant, an altered, twilight zone version of myself, submitted to the vagaries of nature and the inherent weirdness of a whole person growing inside another person. A healthy dose of pure curiosity makes me wonder: will I that pregnant girl, or that one? Will I be that old lady, or that one?

In any case, watching the Mister's grandmother turn ninety-four with energy, sparkle, and grace definitely gives me something to aspire to. Happy birthday, iaia!

1 comment:

pinolona said...

My Granny is 99 and she still speaks fluently in two languages and aces the mental awareness tests they give her whenever she gets sick.

I can very, very clearly see myself as an elderly woman wondering what happened and how it all passed in an instant and how is it that exactly five seconds ago I was rollerblading along a river in central Europe as a twenty-something.

I find it slightly harder to imagine myself as the pregnant girl though! :)