On Ninety


Age can be beautiful and age can be brutal.

Spending the weekend with my grandmother, now 90+2 days was the former.

Ninety. Nine-freaking-ty.

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.

{66 Comments}

66 thoughts on “On Ninety”

  1. You have to enjoy it as it is and try not to worry about the future, because there’s no guarantees in life. My Grandpa, who I adored, only made it to 74 (liver cancer)and I wish I’d had more years with him. But his Grandpa had lived to see 106. And it wasn’t a 106 and living in a nursing home, it was making his last loom at 105 and making his last weaving at 106 and living life every day to it’s fullest, defying the odds and peacefully going one night in his sleep. Your grandma looks like the type to see 106 and I hope she does.Love the pictures, esp. that last one.

  2. Beautiful. I hope I’m that healthy and spry if I last that long. I miss my grandparents terribly sometimes, but they lived to ripe old ages, too.Thanks for this!

  3. WOW! What an amazing woman. I get so frustrated with my own octogenarian grandparents because they are scared to keep living at this point. The spend all their time focused on their doctors’ appointments (although they are both healthy) and friends’ funerals.I hope I have the opportunity to make the choice to live like your grandmother.

  4. Um, she looks like she’s got more energy than I do, and I’m 39! She also looks no older than about 70. Looks like you’ve got some amazing genes there in your family!

  5. Beautiful sentiment, beautifully expressed. There is no way that gorgeous woman in 90! I have the same sort of feeling with my mom (who is in her 70’s and not in great health). Every time I don’t hear from her in 48 hours, or she doesn’t answer her phone, or she’s late… I brace myself for “that phone call.” It’s a constant nagging fear. It makes my heart so happy to see her relationship with my children. But it’s bitter sweet as well, because I know there hearts will be broken when she leaves us. *sigh*

  6. First of all, your grandmother must have found the fountain of youth and isn’t sharing. She doesn’t look a day over 70. Wow. So beautiful. And a smile that made me smile instantly.And I know what you mean when you speak of your mind thinking differently in the presence of someone in their 90’s. My own grandmother passed at 84 and I miss her terribly. It’s still so painful, 2 1/2 years later.I think it’s wonderful that you’re appreciative of the time you have with her. I think I took it for granted when my grandma was alive.

  7. Simply beautiful – and you are so right – you never know so enjoy the now. And dang, she looks not a day over 55 – fer real. Happy Birthday GreatGrandMom-101.

  8. She looks amazing and it is wonderful that you can enjoy every moment with her. THAT will be what will get you through missing her someday! Beautiful post.

  9. This was lovely. But I have to ask: 90?! I honestly have to agree with everyone else who would have guessed 70. Maybe. Damn, woman, you got some good genes.

  10. My great-grandmother just turned 91 in January…she’s been able to meet her great-great-grandchildren. And she won’t give kisses anywhere BUT on the lips!

  11. As odd as this may seem, I have a favorite part about having been diagnosed with cancer at such an early age. None of us knows when the reaper will come knocking at the door. 90 is arbitrary. You take what the 90-something-year-old has to share and make it yours. Better yet, instill that in your children. There is so much to be learned from a Depression-era grandparent. Don’t let that go to waste!On another note, you look fabulous after two kids. You kept the glow without keeping the grow. Kudos.

  12. Wow….90. My Nana is turning 90 this June and we just had to cancel her surprise party because she has been in the hospital. She’s just too weak for both the trip to the restaurant and the shock. Your grandmother looks AMAZING!! Glad you were with her to celebrate such a happy occasion 🙂

  13. Oh, what a fab post. She is so beautiful. My husband’s grandmother is 97 and still lives in her little apartment, makes us fresh jam every few weeks and goes berry picking in the summer. It is amazing and wonderful that her great-grandkids get to enjoy having her in their lives.Glad you got to share in her celebration.

  14. Ninety is like the new seventy I hear… and boy does your Grandma look spunky. How lucky you are to have those words in your head “ninety”…. when you think of her. Your thoughtfulness about her and her “number” is really heartwarming.

  15. WOW! She is gorgeous and she really doesn’t look 90 +, guess this is the way you can expect to age, right? You are lucky to have her in your life. I have one grandma left, and she is also 90, but let me tell you, she looks her age. Kid’s don’t understand grandparents the way we do, times have changed, I suppose.

  16. Well put. Such a sweet post – such a beautiful family you have! ~ Suzanne

  17. Wow, that made me cry, but it was beautiful. And I agree with general consensus: that woman CAN’T POSSIBLY be a day older than 70! *grin* I’ll just refuse to believe it – her genes are too good, and now I have to break down and be jealous. *grin*

  18. I know that feeling – a mix of joy and love and dread. I just started cying typing that last one. Enjoy it. Try. Your Gram looks wonderful.

  19. She looks wonderful! If that’s 90, then 90 rocks. This was so poignant, and I can feel your worry. Just enjoy her and know that you are blessed. I lost my grandmother when she was 70. I would have given anything for 20 more years, the years in which I would have given her the first great-grandchild. Beautiful, detailed writing.

  20. Good God, woman! That chickie is 90? She looks better than my mom, and my mom’ll only be 77 this week. Seriously – She looks totally fantastic. That’s wrong – I don’t mean like a physical thing. Vivacious. THAT’S the word I’m looking for.

  21. My grandmother saw 90 and died a couple weeks later. But there’s a BIG difference – my grandmother had spent the last 10 years growing more and more impatient for “God to bring me home”. However, I had the good fortune to see her about a month before she died and I knew it would be the last time I saw her, so I said goodbye. It was sad, it was sweet – it was complete.

  22. Seriously, she is the hottest 90-year-old I’ve ever seen!My dad will be 86 this year – we almost lost him two years ago – and I am so thankful for every day we have him!Great post.

  23. Having just ate dinner with my 88 year old gramma 3 hours ago, I am very aware of what you are talking about. Your Grandmother looks amazing! MAYBE 70…but no way 90! Fingers crossed that you are lucky enough to age that well! My great grandmother lived to be 97 and I have a lot of wonderful memories…your children will too!

  24. Your grandmother looks amazing. I know from your post that she also acts amazing.I had my grandmother until I was 40, my grandfather until I was 41. And yes, I thought, what more could I ask for? To have them until I was 44, perhaps, but that seemed greedy. My children knew them and remember them. The last time I saw her I laid on her bed looking at photos and laughing with her. I watched my grandmother, not quite 5′ tall yet towering, cut the heads off my ex-husband in family photos so she could keep the photos of everyone else.My advice is that if Momsie lives in Florida, go to Florida more than you want to, think you should, or can afford. You will never be sorry you did, you’ll only be sorry if you don’t.Thanks for sharing.

  25. Try to focus on her wonderful spirit at 90. My MIL was like that and lived to be 98..with a peaceful end.

  26. No wonder you don’t look at day over 25. You’ve got some amazing genes. The reminders of my own mortality come in waves. I try not to let it take over my brain, but instead, I write a story, so if I don’t make it to 90, hopefully my words will.

  27. Thank you everyone. You’re all making me cry. Especially you, Amy. And MU, that’s awesome. I love how you expressed that. Cross stitch it onto a pillow.

  28. Having recently lost my own 90 + almost two years inspirational grandmother, I know far too well the feelings you described.Your grandmother is beautiful. Happy birthday to her!

  29. My mom closed on her house here today. She is coming to silicon valley to live part time because she doesn’t want to miss out on seeing her grandkids grow up. Reading this post, i know that part of the reason i am so happy she is going to be near us more is because of those gut-wrenching fears. There is nothing like having kids to make you face mortality issues you never thought you’d have to think about so soon (and so often). I look at my mom and I find myself calculating her age against a woman’s average life expectancy. And then I calculate my own age…I am so relieved and so happy that she’s here. Did I say that?You grandmother is beautiful and radiant. From the pictures she looks like a lovely woman. I wish her health and many more birthdays to come.

  30. You can’t be serious that she is 90!! She looks like she’s my mom’s age (70). Holy crow do you come from good gene stock!

  31. My grandma will be 92 in September. I wish she were able to be as vibrant and healthy as your grandma. What a gift. I bless each day that I have with my grandma.Actually, I still have both of my grandmas…I’m very fortunate at my ripe old age of 42. 🙂 The younger one is only 85, and pretty darned spry, despite a bad combination of osteoporosis, arthritis, and scoliosis.

  32. My own dad was recently diagnosed with cancer and while have threatened to kill him if he doesn’t beat it, the sad reality is that one day he will die. And I hate the thought. It was so much better to be young and totally oblivious to these things. Then again, losing my Legos could make me cry so I guess there’s some perks to maturity.As for your g-ma, she looks 70!

  33. 90? No way!My Grama is 94, and wants to go another 10 years to beat her sister! I am lucky to still have her, and to have her know my children. I was just a teenager when my Grampa died, I miss him TERIIBLY, he was only 74. I am happy he knew my husband, but he never knew my children. My son is named after him. It is a blessing that my children have time with my Grama, and although I know she will never mean as much to them as she does to me, I treasure it. Tomorrow she arrives for a dental appointment, and will spend the weekend with us. I will try to do for her the things she cannot do for herself and know that every moment I get is a gift.

  34. Holy wow does she look wonderful!My husband’s grandmother — my favorite of his many relatives — just turned 94. She is spry and in relatively good health.She also share a birthday with our new daughter. Next year, despite the pain of traveling with an almost 1 yr. old, we’re planning to trek from Maryland to California so we can do a joint birthday — first and 95th. Attitude matters so much too. My grandmother is a rather crotchety 81 with lots of complaints about the world. I have to remind myself that she’s a decade younger than Ida all the time.

  35. man…that place in the photos looks SO much like Century Village in Boca Raton.i hear ya on 90. i feel very luck that all 3 grandparents that were around when i was born, were still around 35 years later. my maternal grandmother passed away a few years ago in her mid 90s, and my paternal grandfather made it to 89 before lung cancer took him. i got one left and i’m nearing 40, and i remember thinking that FORTY was old. amen, to 90!

  36. We are off to Great Oma’s 90th in July. In the Netherlands.She’s never seen the Impling except in the albums we send her.Every day I wonder, will we make it in time?I’m glad you did.

  37. My grandma celebrates hers in 4 days — the big 9-0. We can’t wait.Treasure every blissful moment. I am.

  38. She looks pretty good at ninety! How great that your daughters get to know their greatgrandmother. I knew mine and have beautiful memories of her.

  39. My gma is in her late nineties and we feel that way at every gathering. I’m afraid, though, that I’ve become a little detached in the process. Like maybe I’ve over-prepared for the eventuality. I’m reminded to live in the moment with her more. I thought my gma was active – yours looks great! I’d never guess ninety, more like seventy. I love the pic with her skipping. And that she still has friends around. One of the sad things for mine has been that she’s outlived everyone. That’s a sad placed to be. Well, happy birthday, ninety!

  40. So, I wrote this once, but lost it – I’ll try to be as brilliant this time around…My gma is in her late nineties and we feel this way at every gathering. I think, though, that I’ve become over prepared through the years and maybe a little detached as a result. I have to remember to enjoy every moment!Happy Ninety!

  41. My grandmother is 95 and in a nursing home as I type, over 4 hours away from where I live. I am afraid to visit her, as witnessing the decline of such a vibrant person is jarring, to the core of my being. I have to make myself visit. Sad, no? Your grandmother is a beauty, and I’m so glad you get to experience the joy of her presence.

  42. Rock the Cradle and Carrie – a very happy 90th to your own grandmas. And Melissa, Sage was actually due on Momsie’s birthday but came a week late. We also celebrated both this weekend and it was amazing to see 90+1 altoghether. Thank you all for the amazing comments. I’m glowing inside.

  43. I have to go see my grandfather now… This really makes me see the value of his life. Time to plan a trip!jesse< HREF="http://instantamber.com" REL="nofollow">Protect you Children<>

  44. The important thing is you’re thinking these thoughts and having these feelings. My grandfather died, at age 93, when I was pg with DS, so he never met him, tho DS IS my gf in personality. He was sharp as a tack – sent me a Mother’s Day card when I was pg – until a stroke got him and he died shortly after. My father died last summer (at 75) and never even met DD. I think of what he’s missing and what I’m missing and it makes me terrified to die before my kids are grown but also determined to be around to see grandkids.Anyway, Momsie looks SO fun and vital and thankfully able to enjoy her great grandkids. You all are so blessed, and I know you know that!

  45. This post touched me. My one remaining grandparent is a frail and forgetful 83, and lives two hours away from me. I know I don’t see her as much as I should. Thank you for the inspiration.

  46. You have a such a beautiful and vibrant family. Momsie and Thalia— what a fabulous pic!This summer I’m taking the kids to Miami to meet my biological great-grandfather. He’s 92 and I’m feeling a sense of urgency; that we have to do this really, really soon.But at the moment he’s a sharp as a tack and spry as can be. I’m really hoping I got his genes 🙂

  47. You have a such a beautiful and vibrant family. That photo of Momsie and Thalia is priceless.I’m taking the kids to Miami this summer so they can meet my biological great-grandfather. He’s 92 so I have this sense of urgency; like we need to do this really, really soon.But for now, he’s sharp as a tack and spry as can be. I’m hoping I got his genes!

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