This season, celebrate the wisdom of your elders
It’s always important to help elderly family members get to Thanksgiving dinner. Particularly when that elderly family member is my Grand Ma Jean. Full disclosure: Grand Ma Jean is not the kind of person you exclude from holidays. If, in fact, we neglected to send her an embossed Thanksgiving invitation three weeks ahead of the event—it’s in the mail, Grams—she would show up at my parents’ place in Boulder astride a war elephant and trailing Dothraki blood-riders behind her. Which would not go over well with Dad’s HOA.
Grand Ma Jean lived through a Great Depression, a world war, and the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special (which she talks about with the air of someone who survived the Blitz). She is, in other words, one tough broad. The kind of broad I’d like to be. And given that the most pressing crisis I’ve had in the last five years was that time Whole Foods was out of my favorite brand of Kale Chips, it would serve me in good stead to hang around with Jean a bit more. To pad my Spanx with steel, as it were.
Look, I get it: you’re busy. I am, too. I spend too much time on Instagram and not enough calling my mom. Too many hours Netflix-bingeing and not enough, say, having mimosas with my 91-year-old grandmother at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday.
But that’s what the holidays are for! Not day-drinking, per se—though Jean’s fondness for martinis and sunrises gives new meaning to the adage “the early bird gets the worm”—but for catching up with the loved ones we don’t see as often as we should.
Juggling everyone’s schedules can be challenging under the best of circumstances, and that becomes doubly true when older family members start to experience issues with mobility or find themselves unable to drive. As Jean reminded me when last we spoke, it happens to the best of us.
“Every moment that passes is a moment gone,” she said wistfully. “When I was your age, I was hell on wheels. Now I eat special yogurt to help me poop.”
That’s a tough pill to swallow, especially for a certain someone who still proudly displays a 1982 traffic court document that refers to her as “a menace to public safety.”
But there are plenty of resources to make sure elderly people are able participate fully in family life. In Denver, for instance, Metro Taxi offers 14 wheelchair-accessible vehicles as part of its paratransit fleet, which is going to help a lot of elderly people see a lot of loved ones next Thursday. One of whom is yours truly, and I can’t wait to bask in the wisdom of my very own intoxicated Yoda.
Because my grandmother, even though she still pines for John Lennon and thinks we might have faked the moon landing, has something many people don’t: perspective. Last year, when Stephanie’s execution of gluten-free frittatas did not go off as planned, Grand Ma Jean turned from the firemen in my parents’ kitchen and patted my shoulder.
“Your sister Stephanie is a little bit of a moron,” she confided. “But not where it counts. Life is meant to be enjoyed. And she pulls that off well.”
Truer words. I’m off to find a turkey and a nonagenarian.
Until next week…
Michelle writes weekly about goings-on in Denver. Michelle is all of us. Or none of us. It’s complicated.