“When you stop learning and growing mentally, you start dying.”
I’m sure you all have a personal story about a family member, acquaintance or friend in their 70’s,80’s or older who continues to be “young at heart”. Still ready for anything, open to new ideas and lifelong learning.
Then there are the “20-30 something’s” who can already seem so much older than their chronological age. Set in their ways, cynical and perhaps doing more than their share of “whining” about how tough life is. Aging and growing older in the worst possible way.
For me, the very best example of being “young at heart” was my maternal grandmother, Sabina. In particular, I fondly look back to the winter of my 20th year and my grandmother’s 78th.
What a wonderful time we shared that year, through a record-breaking cold Canadian winter. I was living and working in Winnipeg, Manitoba and staying with my grandmother in her large rambling, traditional 2 storey house (complete with a sunroom and cold storage porch).
What a lovely memory it is to picture that house again and my grandmother still healthy and very capable of living on her own. Taking what came her way, all in stride.
What a joy it was to come home at the end of a busy workday to the aroma of freshly-baked bread, a MacIntosh apple pie and some delicious supper dish in the oven. A pot of tea in the kitchen, ready to brew.
I was very young at the time but felt so comfortable sharing my thoughts, experiences and even some secrets with my grandmother. There were many things I felt I could discuss with her and often with no one else. And what stories she had to tell in return! I could listen to her for hours on end.
My grandmother Sabina shared many of my traits and interests including my pursuit of keeping things neat and organized. Her house was always very clean and tidy and she did most of the work herself and without so many of the modern conveniences we now take for granted. For example: she still preferred her old “wringer” washer and had it fixed several times, instead of replacing it with a new automatic,even though she could have afforded one. Hard work but good exercise, she would say.
Our usual week night ritual: Sitting in her elegant dining room enjoying supper and a long chat afterwards. She would happily share with me what she had “been up to” that day. Perhaps working on a new sewing project on her still very serviceable Singer treadle machine. A walk to the neighbourhood grocery store was usually part of her daily ritual, even when the winter winds howled as only they can on the Canadian Prairies. Calls on the phone or visits (back and forth) with friends and family. And every night slowly but surely, she would read through the Winnipeg Tribune or rival local daily, Winnipeg Free Press, from cover to cover.
My grandmother had learned English when she came to Canada as a young woman. She was self-taught and had told my own mom that she had been too embarrassed to attend classes to learn English in her new country. She took on the task herself and accomplished it well. I do remember though this was one area where she lacked confidence. She never felt totally comfortable in her language and writing skills but you could have fooled me.
This tiny dynamo of a woman did so much in her long life including raising 5 children and keeping on top of a very active social life as the wife of a railroad executive. Entertaining and travelling were a way of life for them and she did it with grace and style. Always ready to attend various functions: church teas, luncheons and parties in addition to keeping the home fires burning and inspiring her children to reach for the stars.
I remember how she always took pride in her appearance; smartly dressed even at home. Often adorned with precious and unique jewelry pieces. Regal in her stature. Ready for the next challenge or adventure, and this continued through all the years. And also aware of those less fortunate and always ready to help out in any way she could.
Because of my grandmother, I had a wonderful role model in knowing what it truly means to remain young, no matter what age I am. I will never forget our special times together and what she meant to me and always will.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for all you gave me, Big Ma. “
(Our childhood pet name for her go figure; she was less than 5 feet tall!) 😉
“Because of you, I am a better person. And I will always try to make you proud, even now.”