Spending the weekend with my grandmother, now 90+2 days was the former.
Momsie is smart, she’s strong, she’s in better shape than friends ten year her junior who attended her birthday party, some of whom were making shapes with their spines that defied imagination.
It was much the same way I felt at a family wedding last Fall; when you gather in any sort of multigenerational setting, things become clear. Your purpose on this planet seems undisputable and the meaning of life suddenly has little to do with either money or chocolate.
Your heart is full.
Even so I couldn’t help but feel a gnawing in my soul, just something that didn’t feel quite right. It took the weekend down 6% from perfect. It took until now to realize what my body knew before my head.
When you’re in the presence of ninety, your mind works differently. You exist in a constant state of wonder – whether this will be the last hello. The last goodbye. The last photo snapped. The last old story retold, laughed at, and set to rest. The last time you look down at your hands wrapped in hers. The last time you smell her hair or collapse into her strong arms or take in the sensation of her nails gliding up and down your back. The last time you open her refrigerator and hope for Andes candies with the mint in the middle. The last time you make fun of her for never kissing anyone on the lips.
“Ninety,” I kept repeating. “What more can you ask for?”
I think I said as much as an acknowledgment that life doesn’t go on forever. It just doesn’t. And as much as we’re all blessing her good health and the triumph of ninety, there’s an end to it all that’s painful and imminent. I said it because if I can acknowledge it before happens, maybe it won’t hurt me as much when it does.
I have a concrete block in my gut as I write these words. It makes my palms moist and my chest tight and my bowels loose. It makes my arms tingle and my stomach turn. It makes that burning sensation rise up from the back of my eyeballs and slowly slide to the front. But I know ninety.
I remind myself that it can happen at sixty. It can happen at thirty. It can happen at six, God forbid. Life is unpredicatble. And so we celebrate the miracle of life and the beauty and glory and brilliance and great luck and genetic blessing that is ninety.
We sing and we dance and we tell our stories. We hug and we love. We kiss, but never on the lips. We place the children in the lap of ninety for many, many photos.
And hope to do the same at ninety-one.