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Wednesday, July 9, 2008


My great-grandmother recently turned 100. My mother wrote a sanitized version of her life and times in the local newspaper, but let me level with you. For as long as I remember, she was a cranky old lady I avoided like the plague as a child and have seen only once in the past five years.

I don't mean to drag the name of a elderly senile relative through the mud, but her recent birthday has me feeling feeling reflective. If there is such a thing as longevity genes, I've certainly got them, as the women on both sides of my family have lived well into their nineties. (The men on the other hand... well, let's not talk about the lengthy widowhood my great-grandmothers experienced).

At 100 years old, God-willing, I hope that I have something more significant to say about my life than "She's done the best she can with the resources that were available to her." (The headline of great-grandma's article). Hopefully things like "She was a world-famous writer who gave inspiration to millions", but I'll settle for "Well-loved by her family and friends."

When a friend of mine died almost two years ago from battle injuries he sustained fighting in Iraq, I thought a lot about death. Contemplating the mortality of someone who was full of life made my mind think about all of the possible ways I could die young... cancer, car accident on the way to work, allergic reaction to the sushi at my favorite sushi place. Baring all that, eventually I'll give out someday. I thought about it so much eventually it stopped being scary and just sort of inevitable. I decided that my best route to go was to not waste time. I only have so much time to love my husband, friends, family, to read, blog, enjoy the outdoors, to write, think, passionately defend my political opinions, play with the puppy, and enjoy life.

Happily, I have many other role models besides my great-grandma to look up to in life who have done just that... lived their lives by loving other people and doing what they enjoyed in life. My grandma, for example, got married last weekend. She has been a widow for almost 20 years, and fell in love again recently with an old friend. I admire her for many things, not the least being the fact she believes so much in love.

I read a book recently, Life is So Good, about centenarian named George Dawson who learned how to read at the age of 98. Although he seemed to scoff throughout the book at the idea he was anything special, he had managed to stay hopeful and optimistic about life. While reading, I couldn't help but admire him. Both he and my great-grandma lived through a similar era; both got raw deals in life. Both made their choices about how to react to it. My great-grandma chose to become bitter, George Dawson to remain optimistic. An entire century of life. Gosh that's only 77 years away. I've got some things I need to get done first...


Debi said...

What a wonderful post, Kim! It made me think of my own two grandmothers, who couldn't have been more different than one another. Neither lived to be 100 like your great-grandma, but they both lived nice long lives. One spent her life full of love and hope and kindness and, frankly, full of life! The other spent her life judging and finding fault with everyone around her. It wasn't hard to choose which one's footsteps I wanted to follow in!

Kim L said...

debi-no kidding. I just feel like life is too short to waste on feeling bitter about life. I see that when people do that all their life, when they get old, no one wants to be around them.

Rhinoa said...

My grandmother is in her 90s and I love her to bits. She has had the most interesting and sad life and I would to write her memoires but she is abit too vague now sadly. My Nana died a few years ago but we weren't very close, she was quite cranky as well. I wonder what my summary would say if I make it to being 100.

Alice Teh said...

Thanks for sharing this, Kim. I had a very close relationship with my gramma. She passed away years ago and I still miss her lots.

Seachanges said...

I'm with you: as long as someone / everyon says thatshe lived her life well, then that's fine. It would be great to be remembered as someone who wrote well, wouldn't it just? :) I'm with you on that one! And it really would be nice if your children/grandchildren/family remembered you fondly.

Kim L said...

rhinoa-it is interest to think what someone might say about you at age 100, isn't it? Seeing how relatives are when they get old helps me to think about who exactly I want to take after.

alice teh-I'm glad you had such a close relationship. That is an important thing!

seachanges-Totally. It is encouraging to think that I still have time to determine the course of my life :-)

Melody said...

What a wonderful post, Kim! My grandma is in her 90s now and she's still living her life positively despite she had one of her legs amputated this year.

Susan said...

What a beautiful post, Kim! I like the contrast between living with optimism and living filled with fear and criticism. Like you, I chose a long time ago to live with optimism (depression runs in my family). It always is a shock when someone 'our age' dies. In my twenties, my family lost a family friend who was my age, and we were all shocked. It made me reconsider many things too, like the loss of your friend did for you. Thanks so much for sharing, Kim.

Kim L said...

melody-isn't it amazing how people can stay so positive even when things don't go their way? That's great that you are close!

susan-thank you for your comments. It is amazing how surprised we are when people die... even though really our time on earth is short and precious and should be valued highly.