December 28, 2008
Yesterday was my mother in law’s 84th birthday.
When you are 84 there aren’t too many of them left are there? Or maybe that is just me being morbid, I’m not sure. Maybe it is just me thinking about my own mortality and all the things that I still want to do in my life. Things I put off. Things I think that I will do in ten years or twenty years or when the kids are grown or when a whole host of other, ever shifting, variables have been met.
And while I know that there are no guarantees in life, that I could just drop dead tomorrow, it seems that if I reach 84 the odds of me dropping dead the next day go up dramatically. And when I am there will I look back and be happy or will I look back and see a life riddled with things I never got around to doing. Will I even care?
My father in law has mellowed considerably over the past twenty years. He finds joy in the grandkids now in a way that he never did with his own children, or even the older grandchildren. The youngest grandchildren and the great grandchildren will remember him as a laughing, kind hearted grandfather who always had an empty pill container filled with quarters for them. A grandfather who was half deaf and mixed up all of their names. The rest of us can still recall the crotchety man who wouldn’t let oldest grandchildren IN THE HOUSE when they were small. I know you think I am exaggerating for comedic effect, but I assure you, I am not.
He now finds exchanges like this one hilarious. He thinks that the little grandchildren are the smartest of all the smart children that have ever existed. We don’t have the heart to tell him otherwise, that four year old children really are supposed to be talking in complete sentences.
“Miles, stop eating the cake with your finger!”
“I’m not eating it. I am TASTING it!”
My in laws house is like a time warp from 1964. Everything in the house is from 1964 when the house was built, even the furniture. It is so outdated that it is back in style.
My daughter in her retro inspired dress matched the decor perfectly in the house.
Perfect for sitting on the white fur covered couch.
Until a few years ago this couch was covered with plastic. Rob was never even allowed in the room, let alone near the couch. He can not remember a time in his childhood that he was ever permitted to sit on it. No one sat on the WHITE COUCH ever.
Now? The grandkids run all over it. They EAT in the room. They stand on it and look out the windows.
Why exactly my father in law has binoculars next to his front picture window is beyond me. Sometimes it is better to have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy.
I asked my mother in law about this change of heart. Why are the grandkids allowed to do all of these things that her kids were not allowed to do. She shrugged. “What, do we want everything to last forever?”
I laughed. “Well, I’d say that this white furniture has lasted as close to forever as furniture does.”
The kids were bouncing all over the furniture. Not being bad, just bouncing the way that kids do. I started to reprimand them.
“No, let them. They are only little once. If I had it to do over again I wouldn’t care so much about the furniture getting ruined, or the carpet getting stained.”
“Really?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you what, if I knew I would still have this same darn furniture 45 years later I would have tried to wear it out!” she laughs.
I know exactly what she means. They are people born of the Depression. They can not throw away anything that is still useful. The idea of buying new furniture when you already have furniture is preposterous. Heck, they find the idea of throwing away used tin foil preposterous. They store that inside their non-working dishwasher. They don’t replace the dishwasher because :1) they have a sink and hands, and 2) where would they store their used tinfoil while it dries.
Today I was cleaning up my family room and getting really annoyed at the condition of our couch. One of the kids put a huge tear in the leather. I was ranting and raving inside my head about how I never get to have anything nice. How all my things get ruined. How nobody else in the family ever does anything except me. You know that conversation? I am sure I don’t have to spell out the inner dialogue, you have had the same conversation with yourself.
Before I could unleash it all on my poor unsuspecting family I thought of my mother in law and her white albatross. And decided that I don’t want to wait 45 more years to enjoy things. Will this matter to me when I am 84, has become my new mantra.
(Though truth be told I am NOT a product of the Depression and will happily take a knife to my couch and slice it into teeny tiny bits rather than still have it, and hate it, in 45 years.)