Like apples when one is tired of love

Soothing, old people should be, like apples
when one is tired of love.
Fragrant like yellowing leaves, and dim with the soft
stillness and satisfaction of autumn.

~ D H Lawrence, “Beautiful Old Age”

On Monday my maternal grandmother will be 96. She’s the one sitting, her older sister, who turned 101 this year, is standing.

They’re both in remarkable shape. Feisty as hell. They bicker on the phone constantly which is silly, given they’re the last two remaining family members of their generation, but still… old habits die hard and I suspect they’d already started on a lifetime of squabbles by the time this photo was taken in 1918 or thereabouts.

Grandma with my mum as a baby

She and my mum argue from time to time too. In fact all the women in our family are strong-willed – we’re a bit difficult at times – and noisy when we’re all together, each clamouring to be heard above the rest. But I wouldn’t have it any other way… we’re resilient – a necessary attribute for any female and one I’ve always tried to encourage in my own two girls.

My grandma was born into one war and lived through another. She’s of a generation who never knew the frivolity of spending all that was earned – or, worse, spending more than was earned. She’s always understood the difference between luxury and necessity.

Four generations of strong-willed females!

Sam, Jess and I were talking about her this weekend in advance of her birthday party. We compared childhoods; the things grandma didn’t have when growing up: family car, electric lights, television, computer, iPod, telephone – things my children just cannot imagine being without.

We talked about the things she did have – friends, games played in the street, precious toys that were loved all the more for being so few.

And also about what it must be like to get old – to get really old – and how sad it must be when most of the people you’ve loved are gone, how tired a person must get of the changing world.

Me and grandma last year

The girls and I reckon, all told, she does pretty well for a woman of her years. She reads every day – crime and thrillers her favourites – and still likes a vodka or two. She shops with my parents each week, makes her own meals, keeps her little flat spotless and is always beautifully turned out – tottering around in heeled shoes when really she ought to be shuffling in flats… but, no! Vanity is the last bastion of independence and she’d sooner stay in the house than wear “ugly” shoes.

In terms of material things, she has all she wants. We can’t give her youth and years and, really, I’m not sure she’d want them back. So I said to the children, what should we give great-grandma for her birthday? 

Jess thought very hard for a moment. A hug?

Yep. That’s it.

Update Monday 23rd: at her party yesterday we asked her what would be the best birthday present she could get. A new pair of legs, she said, because I absolutely refuse to use a stick.


2 Replies to “Like apples when one is tired of love”

  1. What a pity kids have commandeered words such as 'awesome' and stripped them of impact and meaning, because that's what comes through. I loved this – their vitality, their refusal to conform to stereotypes, all of it. If only virtual hugs worked, I'd send one of my own. A great, life-affirming piece, Sandie. Thanks.

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