DECADES: 80’s are Beautful
This is the 4th installment of my “Decades” series, and one that is especially close to my heart. I chose my mother and her identical twin – having just helped them celebrate their 80th year this past April. Although a beach house full of family (about 30 of us) was not conducive to the style of photos I’ve done for the other women in this series, I decided I still liked the idea of just sharing some shots I took during the chaos. So settle in – cause this is gonna be a long one…it’s a double dose!
It’s hard for me to separate my mother from my aunt when I think of her. Not because they are similar (although physically so, they are very different personalities!) but because they are so much a part of each other – so intimately tied. Though they live on opposite coasts, they have long, richly textured phone conversations weekly. My Aunt Peggy gave my mom one of her kidneys, and it is the only reason she is alive today. In all of my 51 years, I have never heard them call each other by any other name than “Honey”. Growing up, when visiting, I would try to tell them apart by their shoes… I can’t really imagine one without the other. And I love them both dearly. Seeing them together at their birthday bash surrounded by family, telling stories of their youth and of raising us kids – and laughing to the point of tears, was one of the absolute all time high points of my life.
I am sitting in bed right now, reading my mother’s letter to her 20 year old self that I asked her to write. It is written in her distinct style – large, and in sharpie. She is legally blind, but has not for a moment allowed that fact to diminish her enthusiasm and curiosity. The only time I witnessed tears when she lost her sight was when she cupped my face in her hands and said how painful it was that she wouldn’t be able to see our faces anymore. She is the strongest, and gentlest, woman I know. I’m so very grateful that my kids have her as a Grammy. And they are doubly lucky to have “Aunt Grammy Peggy” …deliciously naughty, loyal to the end, and a her grandkids’ biggest fan. They are quite a pair.
Mind you, both of these women have endured things that make me weak in the knees. Among other things, my mother has been on her death bed more than once, and my Aunt has suffered the worst possible loss a heart can take. It would take too long to list what they have endured, but I speak to it because those things imbue their responses with an unmistakable attitude of perseverance and gratitude.
So here is my mother’s letter to her 20 year old self….written in her own hand – because although she could choose to dictate it to my dad, she never does. She just works with what she has, and does it herself.
Dear Eva May at 20,
You are off to such a great start. You are kind, funny, and can get a good job anywhere. It will always serve you well to know that you can provide for yourself. Always carry the love of your family with you. When things don’t go as you like, learn from it and let it go. Realize that everyone has their own agenda.
Listen to your inner voice.
No one is infallible – even Pope Whomever. Love yourself so you can love others. Life is an adventure. Go to the nearest city college, read every page of their catalogue, and take some classes. It’s there for EVERYONE ! If you need to take a class more than once to “get it”, that’s just fine. We all learn at our own pace – some things faster than others.
Do charity work. There will always be a need you can fill.
AND….I know a secret. This is the year you will meet the Love of Your Life. You are joyful and free – do not lose yourself.
What fun to get to visit with you after all these years. You will be a gift to many who are lucky enough to get to know you. Be good to yourself, and enjoy – I LOVE YOU ALWAYS !
And here’s what she loves about being 80:
• Having so many years with the love of my life
• Being here to enjoy the next three generations
• Experiencing how kind and patient everyone is with me
• It’s just sooo good to be here!
• Family is EVERYTHING!
• It’s shameful how much I get to play, and my wish is that everyone could be as lucky
• It is only because my dear twin sister gave me a healthy kidney 30 years ago that all this is possible…she has always been the giving twin
What Aunt Grammy Peggy loves about being 80…
What do I love about the age I am now? Well, for one thing, I now use my age as an excuse for my out-of-the-box attitude and behavior I have had for years, Being sort of treasured as well as loved by family is sweet. Others are more forgiving of my short-comings, as am I. My blessings have accumulated and I thoroughly enjoy them. A wonderful husband and children, darling grandchildren and son-in-law, several loving relatives and a few very dear friends. It’s fun to share old memories with my brother and sister. Being able to pick up the phone and call Honey, my twin sister Eva May, and share lots of little tidbits and have many good laughs is golden
When I look back over all those years I enjoy the happy memories which are many, and I try to let them soften the painful ones. My cup is pretty full and I am ever so grateful. Being in rather good health and still having my whits about me (I think) makes the ride very pleasant.
And Here is what she would say to her 20 year old self:
What would I like to tell my 20 year-old self if I could? Like yourself, be confident, be a good listener, do not burn the bridges you cross, never say never, be a good friend, follow your heart and your gut. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you make a mistake. Don’t worry about the road not taken, it probably would not have taken you where you thought it would anyway. Remember life is what happens while you are making other plans. Try to be the best you can be. Sometimes it is best to agree to disagree. If it isn’t fun for everyone it isn’t fun. None of us are perfect. Remember the wonderful miracle of each day being a new beginning. Make lemonade out of lemons. When your lamp is low, let those who love you love you through it. Don’t let it destroy you and yours. The sun will shine again, even if never quite as brightly. Do not be afraid to love and be loved, it is the greatest joy on earth. And don’t forget to dance.
* * * * * * *
These two are legend, and I wish I could keep them near to me, my kids, their kids, their kids’ kids, and so on and so on, forever and ever. But like everyone, the days are full and busy, and I don’t make plans as often as I’d like, or say the things I should say as often as I should say them. But being who they are, they are very forgiving…and always there when I come up for air. Everyone should be so fortunate.
And there you have it….there are tears in my eyes as I reread this before posting.