Tag Archives: aging

My Grandma’s Favorite Photo

7 Jul

Grandma's Favorite photo

This is my Grandma’s favorite photo of herself.  She loved it so much that she took another photo taken the same day and cut her head out to put on an membership card. It caused a major fuss that summer in the Catskills! A fuss that lasted several days!

We (my Mom, sister and I) asked why she had cut up that photo of her at 17 or 18, when she was already in her 60s when she used it.  Her answer:  It was her favorite photo and she wanted to use it!

Grandma Thelma

Here it is!  You can even see the staple holes in the photo where she stapled it on to the membership card!  I am not sure what the card was for.  It was not an official government ID.  It must have been for some local group.  I honestly do not remember. (My sister reminded me that the card was for a local senior center.)

I do remember that my Mom was so angry when she saw that Grandma had used this photo and destroyed the original!   I believe it was also my Mom’s favorite photo of her mother as a young woman.  My Mom and Grandma actually got into a major discussion, read that as argument, over this.  But it was too late, the photo was already destroyed. Grandma had thrown away the pieces.

My Mom never knew, because I guess Grandma never told her, that there were several other photos from the same day upstairs in an album the attic.  Unfortunately they both had died before we found the album that had these photos taken of my Grandma and her first cousin, Katie.

If you look at it carefully, you can see in the image we have, Grandma is not wearing the pearls. I assume that the pearls belong to my Aunt Gussie, Katie’s mom.  In the photo that Grandma truly loved, she is wearing the pearls.  A telling gesture. As an adult, pearls played an important role in my Grandma’s life.  Eventually she had many strands of real pearls!

Grandma favorite photo

I think my Mom would have been much happier if she knew that other photos existed.

I understand why Grandma used this photo.  I do not think she ever felt pretty.  She told me many times that growing up they called her Luchen, or noodle or string bean, because her arms and legs were too long for her body. She hated being called that nick name.

My Grandfather, on an audio tape we have from November 1981, a few months after Grandma died, even said that Grandma was not pretty, but she had something special about her.  And so he fell in love with her.

Grandma was bright, intelligent, spoke, read and wrote in several languages.  I thought she was lovely.

Now as a woman in my 60s, I think I understand why she used this photo.  When I look in the mirror, I do not always see someone my age.  I expect to see a much younger person. Sometimes I am surprised.  Recently I said something about it to my husband.  And his response made me think of this photo, as he said,  “You will never look 25 again.”  Sigh.  That was the age I was when we married.

This photo of Grandma was taken a year or two before she married my Grandfather. Perhaps she felt as I, and was remembering the young Thelma. That is how she saw herself, and so that is the photo she used.

(I am thinking about Grandma now, as her birthday was in July.  We will soon mark what would be her 112 birthday.  Although she is gone, her memory continues as a blessing.)

How I Learned That I Really Am 60 Years Old

9 Jul

I admit it; I am 60. It happened suddenly. One day I was 25 and getting married. And moments later I was 60, married for 35 years and had two adult children. How did it happen? I am not sure. But I will tell you that I do not feel 60. In my mind I am much younger. How old, I am not sure; but definitely NOT 60.

I walk between 2 – 5 miles daily. I exercise. I work. I volunteer. I do word puzzles. I write. I read. I crochet. I visit with friends. I shop. I keep moving. I am mildly obsessive and overly concerned at times. Most people I meet do not think I am 60, except perhaps for the grey hair. I do not get my haired dyed. And many times I am in a room with women my age and older, and I am the only one with grey hair. So I guess that might indicate my advancing age.

But recently, I realized that in fact I was 60. I realize that being 60 has made a few changes in my life and how others view me. Perhaps, it is just others who do not really know me.

It happened in Rome. My husband and I arrived on a Wednesday, arriving at our hotel about 11 am. Once we got into a room we decided to go exploring. Close to the hotel was the Castle of Saint Angelo, a lovely spot to investigate. We spent hours there going room to room, inside and out, lost in the corridors that date back centuries.

IMG_5723

The Castle of Saint Angelo.

We finally found our way out and walked back to our hotel for a nap before a meeting and dinner. Imagine our surprise when our host arrived 45 minutes early. We were tired, but we got it together. He took us to tour the Basilica of San Paola and its cloister. Then to the Bambino Gesu Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Rome, for a short tour and where my husband presented a talk to the allergy section. From there it was out to dinner with 13 others for a five-course Roman meal….delicious. And then a two-mile walk to what we were told was the best gelato in all of Rome, the Gelateria Frigidarium. It was delicious. But we did not get back to our hotel till midnight.

The Great Synagogue in Rome, Italy

The Great Synagogue in Rome, Italy

Now after traveling for 20 hours, touring and a giant meal and gelato, I was tired. But with jet lag, I still did not sleep that well. And we had to be at the Jewish Quarter by ten in the morning for a three-hour tour organized by Jewish Roma. We did it. It was wonderful. We ate lunch in the Jewish Quarter then grabbed a taxi to get to the Vatican where we had another, 2:30 pm tour scheduled.

A portion of the ceiling in the extremely long reception hall, also known as the map room because of the frescos of different areas of Italy.

A portion of the ceiling in the extremely long reception hall, also known as the map room because of the frescos of different areas of Italy.

Also planned by Jewish Roma, we had a semi-private tour with one other couple. I would say they were in their late 30s and the tour guide, perhaps in her late 40s. This tour would take us through the Vatican Museum, not air-conditioned, to the Sistine Chapel. The museum winds it ways through room after room of art works. Long halls, galleries, so much to see. So much walking!! And finally, we are all herded into the Sistine Chapel where everyone stands and looks up ward at the magnificent art drawn by Michaelangelo. At least it had some air conditioning.

It was in this room that I realized I am 60,and other people noticed. We had moved to the back of the chapel to look around there before going out. Our lovely tour guide Sylvia, suddenly turned to my husband and I and said, “There are some seats that just came available. Why don’t you go sit there!”

Okay, we can. We walked over and my husband and I sat down. I looked over at him. He looked really tired. I must look tired as well, I thought. Then I looked up. The three younger adults were looking down at us. And I had a epiphany moment, I knew what they were thinking. They were thinking that we were worn out. They were worried about us. Would these seniors make it through the tour? Are they ok? Wow! I now know what my parents thought when I sat them down somewhere to rest. And you what? I needed that rest. It felt wonderful!

After a few minutes, perhaps ten, we said we were ready to go on. Really, we reassured the guide and the couple. And on we went. When the tour ended my husband and I went into St. Peter’s Basilica for a while. But after about 20 mintues, I was done. It was time to go back to the hotel. And I was not going to walk!!! Even though my husband assured me it was just about a mile. NO! I won.

We walked to the edge of St. Peter’s Square and got a cab.

Back to the hotel. It was about 5:30 pm. I took a quick shower and went to take a nap. My husband said he tried to wake me at 7 pm, for dinner. I did not move. I also did not move at 7:15 when he tried again. Finally at 7:30 pm, I did wake up and we went out for dinner.

We went just a block from the hotel to a lovely restaurant; then on to a gelato shop for dessert.

It was a wonderful day. We walked another six miles. We saw so much and learned so much about Rome. But we also learned that we are 60 years old!

Aging, Wisely and Joyfully

21 Feb

I spoke to my daughter a few days before her 29th birthday (yesterday). She lives in Israel and I live in the Kansas, so we spoke through a video chat. (Always makes me think of 2001: A Space Odyssey, when the astronaut calls his family from space.) My daughter was bemoaning her advancing age.

“I am going to be old!” She cried. “I am almost 30!”

“That is not old!” I insisted. “Look at me, I am 60. I am not complaining about being old.”

“Well once you are old, you are old!” She said. “I am not old yet, just getting there.”

We both laughed. But the truth is, I do not feel old. I feel pretty wonderful.

I recently participated in a two-day workshop on “Wise Aging” presented by instructors from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Although it was presented in Kansas City, there were participants from through the Midwest. We all learned how to be facilitators in this new program to help people transition in to the next stage of life.

I was surprised when I was called by our rabbi’s wife and asked to participate on behalf of our congregation. But she told me that she thought of me immediately when she realized she could not attend, as I was aging so wonderfully. That was two weeks before my 60th birthday, and I will admit to a bit of concern. But okay, I would do it.

The two-day workshop was intense and exhausting. Fourteen hours of learning and interacting with the other trainees as we attempted to learn about the Wise Aging program, bring this program to life and learn to teach it to others.

I loved the idea of helping people see themselves as elders as opposed to elderly. As we age, we have so much to give to others. We can mentor and teach from our experiences.

There was one part of the program I found distressing. There was much discussion about teaching people how to let go of bitterness and learn to forgive those in their past who might have hurt them. It seems many people, as they age, hold on to old hurts and real or imagined insults.

I say, “let it go.” As does this program. Let go of these feelings because bitterness only makes you feel worse. I am a firm believer of the rule of Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur to say I am sorry to any one I might have hurt and to forgive anyone who has hurt me. It is so much easier than carrying all that baggage around. And it makes life so much more joyful.

This workshop opened my eyes to how others see themselves as they age.   Whereas my husband and I are really enjoying our lives as empty nesters, others seem to have a difficult time.

So I say. Go to a lecture. We try to go to a program at least once a week.   There are many free lectures and programs available. Go to a concert. Take a weekend trip if you can. Get a kitten. Having a pet does wonders for people as they age. Travel with friends.

Yes the body starts to give out a little. But exercise is wonderful for keeping your body healthy. You do not have to run marathons like my meshugganah husband. But you can walk. I walk two to three miles almost every day.

Soup

Do something different. Yesterday, in honor of my daughter’s birthday, a friend of mine and I went to the new IKEA store in Kansas. I had not been there yet. We walked all around the showroom and the marketplace and the warehouse. I got lots of walking in and bought a few accessories. Then we went out for a bowl of chicken noodle soup and shared a black and white cookie at a deli. Happiness can be a bowl of soup and a cookie!

Find things that make you happy. And be happy. You have so many experiences to share and so much good to do. Volunteer for an organization you love. Meet new people. Keep being curious. My curiosity has led me to investigate further into my family history and I have found cousins I did not know I had. I love a mystery and solving it. Now I am focus on the mysteries of my family.

There is so much to do and so much more time to do it, now that I no longer have children at home.

So I plan to continue to age wisely and joyfully. I hope my example will help my daughter accept her almost 30 years and age joyfully as well.