Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Celebrating Life, and the beginning

Yesterday marked the 89th year of my grandmother's life. My grandmother is an incredible woman. An artist, a free-thinker, a soft-spoken lady and a trail-blazer all rolled into one. She is beautiful, inside and out and doesn't let any of us forget how many men used to line up around the block to take her out (it's true, too, I've checked with my mother).

In the late hours of the evening yesterday I called her. Just back from dinner with my aunt and cousin she was settled at home and we were both feeling contemplative. After a bit of chit chat about her day I cut to the chase.

"So tell me, birthday girl," I said, "what wisdom do you have for me?"

"I am loved, baby," she told me, "I love and I am loved."

Powerful stuff. We spoke a bit about life, about the importance of love and letting go. About how so little of life is about getting and holding onto the things you want (even love) and how much of it is about growth. How all of it is about growth. We spoke about the death of my grandfather and her resilience and amazing, inspiring ability to always challenge herself. To want to challenge herself.

She was curious about the new book I am working on and wanted to know if I needed any ideas (I love you, grams, but no) and we spoke a bit about childhood, about that magical time where somehow life congeals for the first time and a foundation is built from which to take flight. Which led to some reminiscing about my own childhood, about walks with her in our back woods and roadtrips to museums and park picnics.

One story she mentioned I found particularly illuminating and I wanted to share it here. She told me about how a friend of hers had taken her to a concert the other night. There was a pianist there and when she saw the pianist she was reminded of her childhood, of having to play the piano in school for gym class and being terribly, tragically embarrassed by it. She told me, in that moment at that concert, that she recalled one day before school stopping at a friend's house to borrow a bandage to put on her finger so she could pretend she was injured and wouldn't have to play. She was eight. "I am 89 years old," she told me, "and that is what I think of when I see a piano."

Why is it that we are drawn back to the beginning? I asked her the same question and she didn't miss a beat. "It is where we become," she said, "it is where we get set on the way to who we are." The formative years are so important. They set a tone for the rest of life. I can only hope, my beautiful grandmother, that I will walk an equally magnificent path.

With love,


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