Saturday, May 10, 2008

Words of wisdom from Grandma

Those are my grandparents (Pap and Grandma) and today is my Pap's 90th birthday. Ninety!  

I didn't know them well growing up.  For most of my young years they were in Florida and I was in Texas or Indiana. Thankfully now we all live in the same town and I have the opportunity to spend more time with them. It wasn't something I took much advantage of though until recently. My grandma had a fall and needed some help around the house while she recovered. We hired a home health agency but they were so unbelievably horrible that I ended up going over to check on things once, sometimes twice a day. Grandma is feeling better now but I still try to go over once or twice a week to visit.  

In that time, I've learned something: my grandparents have lived wonderfully full lives and have the most amazing stories to tell.  In the last few months, I've heard all about the depression; WWII in which my grandfather served while my grandma was at home with a brand new baby, dealing with food rations, and sick with worry; and tales of how my grandmother and all her sisters were such wonderful dancers that "all the boys wanted to dance with the Davis sisters." They've treated me to stories of their motor home adventures when my dad was young, the many places they've lived and visited; tales of  the hardships of living in Montana in the old days when there were no cars and Pap rode his horse to the little one room school house; and shared memories of family loved and lost. 

Now stories aside, at 90 and 88, visiting Pap and Grandma is always an adventure. It's important for me to be alert as I'll be required to maintain two conversations at once (mostly, I think they just get lonely and when someone comes to visit, they each have things they want to talk about or stories they want to tell; compounding the problem is that neither of them hear well). I usually sit with Grandma on my right and Pap to my left in his recliner. This helps the process somewhat. So I'll talk to Pap about his adventures in Montana and then turn and talk to Grandma about the news, then back to Pap about the war and then to Grandma about all the junk mail she gets, and it goes back and forth like this for the duration of the visit. 

The reason I mention all this... This past week I was visiting and the three of us were discussing whether they should take a trip to Houston to see my aunt, and if so when they should leave (that evening or the next morning). After awhile we moved on talk to about other things and knowing that Pap's 90th was quickly approaching, I asked him what his trick was for such a long and happy life.  Pap just chuckled and Grandma piped right up saying, "You have to stay in the same lane. You can't change lanes all the time. You just have to stay in the same lane."  

Pap never did answer and we ended up discussing again at length the benefits of waiting to go to Houston until the next morning, but her answer, which at first caught me as hilarious because she was obviously still thinking about that trip to Houston, made me think.

You know maybe inadvertently she's right. Maybe the key to a long and happy life is in staying in the same lane. When we drive, it's all about getting somewhere, and the faster the better, right? We speed around that blankety-blank in the other lane who is in our way (he's obviously doing it on purpose to to make me angry). We curse at the stop light - who put one there anyway? We try to be alone on the open road as much as possible. And because we're going so fast, we can't do much looking around. Maybe the trick is in just chugging along in that right hand lane, enjoying the view, letting the world just pass on by at whatever speed it wants to go. Because life isn't about that destination (that dream job, owning a house, being able to afford that mid-life crisis car, finally achieving the perfect body).  It's about right now. It's about the journey. It's about hanging out in the right lane, taking a deep breath, and marveling at all the wonderful things around us.

So Grandma, sorry for giggling at your answer. It was far more profound than I'm sure you intended, but it made me think: just relax and stay in the same lane. It's ok if others pass us by, because it's not about them. It's about my journey, my adventure, and the amazing stories that I will one day tell. Here's to making each day a beautiful adventure!

Oh, and Happy 90th Birthday, Pap! 

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