I asked my grandmother, Nana, on the week of her 100th birthday if she had any secrets for getting older. All she said was that she takes it one day at a time. At that time Nana lived in her own home, cooked her own meals, was able to laugh and joke over conversation and enjoyed old movies in the afternoon. Her attitude is one of positive thinking and she has faith in her religion and spiritual practice.
When Grandad was around I interviewed both of them on my tape recorder. Grandad’s interview lasted close to an hour and a half, while Nana’s interview was under 20 minutes. A lot of her answers referred the stories and credit to her husband, a career military officer. Her two children, one of them being my father, look after her and now take care of her affairs. Seeing my dad in that mode, of taking care of her, made me think of getting older and how I’ll be doing that for my own mother someday.
As our parents age and we come into a state of caretaker for them, the roles of who is in charge and who has the final say change.
When it was time to gather the cousins and toast Nana‘s birthday celebrating 100 years, I saw people that I would normally only see at a wedding. Cousins on both sides of the family came.
My family, like many in America, is divided politically. My father’s cousins are mostly military or prison guards, who vote conservatively and live rurally in parts of central Pennsylvania. My mother’s cousins are from Philadelphia and are artists and storytellers who vote liberally. We all come together for Nana and her big birthdays. We were together for her 95th in 2013, which was a much less politically charged time than 2018 when we celebrated her 100th.
After the photos, it was time for the toasts. I went first, in kind of a roasting spirit conjuring lines and scenes from my first Snap Judgment Classic, a piece I had done on stage, this time poking at political tension in the room. “Nana, who do you vote for…?” Nana was raised in polite society where you never bring up politics or religion, but both sides of the political divide seemed to like the toast which was the goal. After my toast other cousins and would-be uncles approached and either mentioned something political or steered clear of politics and kept their words heart felt. The political tension in American is so strong, it can cut any family gathering to the core.
One of the reasons Nana is able to live so long, in my point of view is her ability to laugh at any situation. She laughs at almost any attempt at someone’s humor, and never holds back in order to laugh at what it is in the moment and in good fun. This year, we didn’t have a big gathering but video called her. She’s still around at 102. Less vibrant than at 100, but still living life one day at a time.