Sunday, November 16, 2008

My grandmother's face -- jcarolek

This morning as I drove to church, I marveled at the brilliant blue autumn sky, thankful that, for a change, the dreary drizzle of yesterday had taken a back seat to the sun. And then I saw it... the moon. Right there. In the middle of the brilliant blue morning sky was the lovely moon. And I thought about the man ... you know, that one that lives in the moon... the one that turns the light on at night and off in the morning, since the sun is so much brighter, the moon would seem redundant. And I thought about how old that man must be getting.... how many generations have relied on him to illuminate the night sky.

And then I thought of my grandmother... my father's mother. I think of her whenever I think of "old." I think of Grandma and "old" because for as long as I can recall, she always had that delightfully "patterned" face of those who have spent a lifetime unprotected from the sun's rays. Her face was a virtual road map and I always thought it was beautiful... like all the many places she must have been in her life and all the things she must have seen. Each had left its mark on her.

She used to tell me that she had gone to school...

"what school, Grandma?" I'd ask.

"The school of hard knocks," she'd reply, and, as a youngster, I found that to be very funny. I had no idea what she was talking about back then, of course, but it just sounded funny to me. I guess, in retrospect, I know very little about her childhood -- her early years. What I do know was that she married my Grampa and had a lot of kids... six boys and one girl. My father is number two (as am I in my own family) and his elder brother one year his senior, and his youngest brother is, I believe about 21 years his junior.... yeah, I guess Grandma knew what she was talking about when she said she'd graduated from the school of hard knocks. Many of that generation had large families and lived on small incomes... that was just the norm.

By the time I got to know my Grandma, she was raising a son only a couple of years my senior, and had a passel of grandchildren... and always, her face was lined. I never saw her wear make-up, or use any sort of lotions to cover the evidence of age and I always found that refreshing. I thought it delightful that I could see the wisdom in her face. OK, sure, she had some "wisdom" that I did not think was credible... you know, the stuff where she told me that sitting in front of the computer would give me cancer, and the time when I was a teenager and addicted to a daily shower, she told me once a week would be often enough and if I needed to bathe more regularly, I should go to the lake to do so....I just rolled my eyes as only teens can do, and thought, "how stupid!"

When I try to think about the profound things Grandma did in her life, nothing really pops to the forefront. She had some cool talents. She was ambidextrous and knitted back and forth without ever turning her work around... she simply would knit right-handed and then left-handed. She also had a talent for creating "guess what it is" gifts for all of us at Christmas. Trust me, some of the creations were REALLY hard to guess... but we all got them. The year of the knitted "sweatband" .... and that of the fingerless gloves.... well, OK, she had her gigantic wall art she'd made of a big spider in a web, gracing her OWN living room, so.... No, what I remember best about Grandma was her face... her parchment-appearance skin, that will always be the vision of "old" to me.

And, as I look in the mirror in the morning, I notice a hint of that same road map making its way onto my own face. I don't worry about it... I don't want fancy creams and lotions. I want my wisdom to shine through, as did hers. And one day, when I have grandchildren, I hope they aren't looking for some carefully cosmetic'd sweet old lady... for blue hair and Jean Nate are just not my style.... no, I think I'd rather be like Grandma...

I bet the man in the moon is just FULL of wisdom lines.... and I'm glad he forgot to turn out the light this morning... he made me think of Grandma and a face I always thought was truly beautiful.

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