As I’ve sorted through my grandmother’s journals this week, I found a funny photocopied essay she squirreled away in the back of one of the books.
Now, to find it amusing, you have to know Grandma. She’s 100, and she lived on her own until two weeks before her last birthday, so she’s pretty healthy (for 100), clear-headed, tough (she has, after all, lived in Minnesota for a century) and she’s got a great sense of humor (I wouldn’t be surprised if she told someone April Fools Day is her favorite holiday — that reminds me, I need to look up April 1st in her journals over the decades).
She’s also just a little bit vain. Not in a bad way — I admire this about her. Her earrings always match her outfit, for instance, and she colored her hair into her 80s. It must be working for her — she’s never been overweight and she’s 100 years old. In fact, I dedicated my last book to her because “she proves vanity is a virtue.” When I last visited her a few weeks ago, I accompanied her and my dad to an appointment with her eye doctor. On the way home, she wanted to stop at a nearby shoe store because she was looking for a particular type of sandal — my 100-year-old grandmother was shoe shopping! How great is that?! (I found it amusing when we couldn’t find quite the right style of sandal and the sales lady helpfully suggested the sandal selection would be more vast in the spring. I hope my 100-year-old fashion-conscious grandma will shopping for new sandals next spring!)
So I find this little essay tucked into one of her journals, which she began keeping when she was 70. It’s titled “The Stranger” (a quick internet search reveals the author to be Rose Madeline Mula). It starts like this:
A very weird thing has happened. A strange old lady has moved into my house. I have no idea who she is, where she came from, or how she got in. …
She is a clever old lady, and manages to keep out of sight for the most part, but whenever I pass a mirror, I catch a glimpse of her. And whenever I look in the mirror to check my appearance, there she is, hogging the whole thing, completely obliterating my gorgeous face and body. This is very rude. I have tried screaming at her, but she just screams back.
It continues for several paragraphs describing how the Stranger “plays nasty games …altering my clothes” and doing “something really sinister to the volume controls on my TV, radio and telephone. Now, all I hear are mumbles and whispers” and other mean tricks.
I find this amusing, as I stand on the precipice of 50 (14 months, 7 days away, not that I’m counting or anything). There’s a strange middle-aged lady in my house with a flabby butt and crow’s feet who leaves marbles in my shoes and makes it difficult for me to recall exactly the right word without a thesaurus.
I find a little comfort knowing Grandma felt this way at 70something and yet, she’s still going strong, getting her hair done, painting her nails and shopping for shoes.
That’s the old lady I want to be. One who, despite being unable to unscrew a jar of spaghetti sauce, maintains a firm grip on her vanity and her sense of humor.