Today would’ve been my grandma’s 76th birthday. Sadly, she’s been dead for ten years. Cancer. Ugh. I hate the very word. And while no one should lose their grandma at 17, let alone a parent, people do every day. That’s life.
Luckily, I had a great time with my grandma while she was here. She taught me a lot. I guess all of the people closest to us can, if only we pay attention.
Grandma was born in East Germany even before East Germany became a thing and she embodied that mindset down to the clichés.
She was very frugal, downright cheap at times, but it kept the household and my grandpa’s architecture firm together. Except when it came to making gifts, where too much was never enough and she always gave freely.
First and foremost, however, my grandma was a comic. She was kinda clumsy, so she’d always get herself into some mess and then laugh at it from the bottom of her heart. One time she backed right into a stall at the farmer’s market, sending fruits and veggies all over the place. She’d often drop things and laugh at everything that happened whenever we played board games.
She dipped literally all foods into her coffee, from cake to cookies to ham sandwiches. Nothing was safe. She also had the sweatiest feet anyone’s ever seen and she laughed at that too. I can’t think of anyone who lived more by that famous quote:
“Life is too important to be taken seriously.” ― Oscar Wilde
Laughing at life is the thing my grandma taught me that’s most worth remembering. But there’s another big lesson I wouldn’t have wanted to miss:
None of us can beat time.
The Deal With Age
I remember the school yard whispers: “Did you hear? David’s together with Lisa now. She’s a senior. A senior!” I know it makes sense for a 3-year age difference to feel outrageous when those three years are 21% of your whole life, but does it ever, really? I’ve always gotten along better with older people, but I also have friends who are seven years younger that I still love talking to.
I’ve had girls laugh at me for asking them out based on nothing but the fact that they were five years older than me. I’ve had ex-girlfriends who were two years older claim I’d understand once I “got to their age.” I’ve had people twenty years older than me tell me “good luck with doing stuff that’s ‘fun.’” As if that couldn’t possibly add up to a meaningful career.
But you can’t take any credit for aging. We all do it. People don’t magically stop making mistakes as they get older. I never understood why people confuse age with authority so much. How they automatically correlate it with wisdom, as if the mere passage of time would make one smarter. It doesn’t.
Aging won’t free you from stupidity. Learning will.
But we love judging people by numbers. And age beats everything. Even money. It’s the ultimate trump card to win any argument. I take pride in not playing it and not letting it work against me.
Except when it comes to one thing.
We were always a small family. Both my parents have only one sibling and they have one kid each, so my sister and I have a whopping two cousins. As you can imagine, our reunions have always been rather low-key. But what I loved about them growing up was that everyone was always young.
My grandpas were 25 and my grandmas 21 and 23 when they had kids. My parents had me at 26 and my sister at 31. It’s great. How many children can say they played soccer with their grandma and how many dads can talk business with their son well before their career prime? I always wanted that.
Last week I visited a high school friend. One of the first to become a dad. He’s 28, he has a wife, a house, and a stable job. And now a kid. Awesome! I have none of these things. I still want them all. But while the kids-at-25-ship has long sailed, I feel pretty happy about where I am right now.
When I was over there, we mostly stared at the lil’ guy and laughed at everything that happened. Kind of like my grandma would’ve. I guess it got me thinking.
What if we stopped fighting time?
Laugh It Off
When someone close to us dies before their time is up, our usual reaction is to speed up. To create a sense of urgency around important things. Better hurry and get that bucket list done, for you never know when you’re gonna kick it.
I think maybe we should slow down instead. Slow down and think. Because most of the time, we have a very poor idea of what those important things are. So we end up chasing the next goal that’s in sight, rather than the one that matters most, but that we first have discover.
Where do I really want to take my life right now? What am I happy to sacrifice today? Would I rather die trying to reach something else than even actually getting the thing I’m currently pursuing? These are important questions.
And if time doesn’t care about age, then why should we worry about how long it takes us to answer them? Maybe you’ll sort out your life in the most conventional order. Maybe you’ll do everything backwards. Maybe time will answer some of those questions for you. Maybe it won’t.
But I have a feeling that if you dare to ask them, however much time you have will be spent just fine. And even if we should fail to come up with great answers, we can always laugh it off.
Ain’t that right grandma?