I am reticent to admit that there are days when I spend time fixated at looking at myself in the mirror. I just can’t believe what’s happening! My body is starting to look just like my mothers. The irony is that she never exercised a day of her life, ate pretty much what she wanted, never took supplements or meditated. In fact she would often get angry and throw stuff around, drink wine every night, and stress was her constant companion. She lived to be ninety-nine. Her last several years were not the best, but for the majority of her life she was in good health and got around quite well. In fact she drove from Long Island where she lived alone till she was ninety , to my home in Plymouth. I was always amazed at how she got here intact or that she had not left a wake of car accidents, since she was totally afraid of driving. I on the other hand exercised myself into a coma, tried to eat so-called healthy foods, and learned to meditate. My career, teaching people how to manage their stress was my best teacher, but none of the aforementioned curtailed the onslaught of joint problems that have become a part of my journey. Also none of what I did exercise wise has kept my body looking any different from my mothers. She would often say that as you get older you get the furniture disease. That’s when your chest falls into your drawers. She was spot on. Despite all of her so-called dysfunctional habits, she had a sense of humor ,albeit dark and often cynical, that seemed to help her cope with aging and the problems it brings with it. She would often laugh at me when I told her to exercise as if she already knew what I was in for. My humor is less dark, but it seems to continue to be available even when I’ve been faced with the news that I need two knee replacements and a possible shoulder replacement. I figure I may go bye-bye, but some of my parts will be around forever. Since none of us are going to get out of here alive, it’s probably a good idea to spend as much time as possible exercising your funny rather than your fanny.
I have often talked and written about my Italian grandmother Francesca. She was so much a part of my childhood and was the quintessential Nona; flowered house dress, sensible black oxford shoes, and her hair done up in a bun at the back of her head. She always smelled clean and her ways of expressing herself had a calmness that seemed to permeate the atmosphere.
She kept her weight down by eating moderately and by taking a brief stroll every day around the neighborhood. She wore no makeup and rarely spent a lot of time worrying about what she looked like. She existed primarily for her family, making delicious meals and spending time praying for individuals who needed spiritual help. I’m sure there are still a percentage of these types of grandmothers somewhere here in America and abroad, but they are fast becoming a part of the past.
Today’s Nona’s are much more hip looking and involved in all kinds of activities. Many of them also work full-time. I know because I’m one of those working grandmas. I often wonder if my grandmother was better off even though she had to deal with fewer modern conveniences and communicating with family and friends was either an old-fashioned telephone or a letter? I know that she never discussed how stressed she was. Life was pretty simple aside from occasional bouts with dysfunctional family members, which in retrospect I believe brought drama to her life and made her feel perky. She didn’t have to wake up and worry whether her highlights or her haircut was going to work. Hair products were a non issue. A bar of brown soap was used for everything including washing her hair. Olive oil was the conditioner as well as a salad dressing.
No push up bras or thongs. I’m sure she would have laughed at the thought of pushing up her breasts. I can just see her face looking at a thong and exclaiming ”What happened to the rest of the underpants.?” She had no need to buy sexy nightgowns to entice my grandfather. I think her night wear was probably woven with steel thread so that removing it would be a major feat. In fact I would bet she had very little information about sex and perhaps was under the illusion that her children were miracles, since she would have had to shield herself from sinful thoughts. I loved the fact that I never heard her talk about dieting. She seemed to have an innate understanding of what well-being meant and knew that being over-weight was not where it was at. Perhaps our relentless need to do more and be more should be tempered by a little bit of old-fashioned Nona mentality. We just might live longer.