Saturday 21 December 2019

There are no Super Grandmas.

As a character study, this is very accurate. 

George is a thrilled-with-life Joseph in the nursery 
Nativity play, Arf is quite an individualistic sheep.
George in an Emperor.  He is three now and four on Sunday.  Tomorrow, Saturday, is his fourth birthday party and it is a Super Hero party.

George is my oldest grandson, and a child for whom life is a constant source of excitement and happiness.  He is at the moment a mixture of many super heroes and changes often during the day into his spider man outfit, or his batman costume, or green trousers and jumper as the Hulk.  Yesterday he had a PJ Masks lollipop, as was his right, while his brother had a Peppa Pig one, being not quite as super as George yet.

George's younger brother is called Arthur, a very serious little fellow.  Arthur has Batman pyjamas and understands there is a huge responsibility when he wears them during the day.  Arf, as we call him, is two.  He is with George in the super hero thing, but he does not completely understand it so George needs to guide him and tell him who he is and what his super powers are.  Arf is fine with this, he just wants a quiet life on his own terms, and he knows George is right about all these things.  Anyhow, his Batman pyjamas give him plenty of kudos as George only has Spider Man ones.

Both George and Arf have a younger sister aged seven months called Liliana.  Liliana is used to being played with by her two super hero brothers, and has no problem with being sat on, loved to within an inch of her life, sung to and given toys to play with until we can only see the top of her head above the pile.  But the thing about Lilz is that she has got a super hero girl costume.  Already.  Tomorrow Lilz will be Wonder Woman.
Lilz IS Wonder Woman

The fourth birthday super hero party will be a grand affair in a village hall.  All the local children and their siblings will be there plus parents and in my case, a grandma.  It is a super hero party so there will be many super powers in the same room, and enough excitement to end in super fisticuffs.  So George's Uncle Dida, six foot seven and super indestructible, is supervising as a superhero himself in order to keep an eye on things.

My jobs tomorrow are mostly about food.  I am going to prepare teeny tiny sandwiches for the four year old Bat and Spider people. And the Wonder and PJ Masks people.  Teeny tiny jam sandwiches in one pile, teeny tiny cream cheese sandwiches on another, and teeny tiny ham sandwiches on a third.  I will be providing pizzas in bite size pieces and fingers of cucumber so that the mummies and daddies will see that it is a bit healthy too.  I will arrive early at George's house tomorrow morning with Super Dida in my car, all the food ready prepared, and help the children on with their costumes.  The party is a morning one, starting at eleven, so everything has to be ship shape by ten thirty.

George's parents, my daughter Lexi and her husband Mike, have been on the case for a good week now.  It coincides with Christmas, and far from George having a substandard birthday because of Christmas, or a substandard Christmas because of his birthday, George's little cup runneth over and he has no break in the celebrations in his little mind.  It is one long fabulous party and he is in the middle of it.  Arf is more of an observer, he is quite an individualist but he does know that if he had his Batman pyjamas on, that things change, and he is happy to be whatever George says he is.  Lilz of course hasn't a clue, but George does not get that yet, her Wonder Woman outfit means she is one of the gang.

Yesterday, George had a word with me.  It turns out that there are no Super Grandmas and no Wonder Grannies that he knows of, and this is really important.  I had told him that I would come in my own super hero costume, thinking that it would add to the fun of the day, and that he would be very impressed.  I was going to find a blanket and use it as a cape.  He'll love that, I thought.  I will be top Grandma and I will show them my super powers.  But it turns out that no, this is a problem.  George is worried that I am out of my depth, my character does not exist, and somehow in his three year old soon to be four year old mind this is a worrisome thing.  Will I just come as Grandma, he asked me?

Of course I will. I said to him.  I will just come as your Grandma and we will have a lovely time together.  So I have put away my blanket and will be a proper Grandma tomorrow, and let him and his little friends be the real super heroes.  And as if to show me how relieved he was, George narrowed his eyes and fixed me with a steely gaze.  He is showing you his Lazer Eyes, said Lexi.  Apparently she and Mike had noticed him squinting and scowling in the back of the car recently and had stopped the car thinking that he was feeling sick.  No, he said, these are my Lazer Eyes.

So tomorrow will be a festival for tiny saviours of the world, their siblings, parents and one normal grandma.  Lexi has made a birthday sponge cake with George helping (you can't believe how helpful I am, he says.  No, we say, we simply can't believe it.  The subtext is George, we cannot even manage without you) - and now she has covered it with red icing and a yellow lightening flash across the top.  The party bags have little masks, a pack of raisins, a bit of cake, a balloon and a sticker.  There will be a bouncy castle for the superheroes, and plenty of tea and coffee for the grown ups.

George, our little Emperor George, is centre of the universe tonight.  He is moving on from being three, into the next stage of his little life, which is being four.  Arf will be well left behind, still being two until the Summer and little Wonder Lilz, well, she does not really count because in her brother's mind, because she is only nought.  She is not even a number yet.

It is late in my house now, and the sandwiches, pizzas and all other foods are done, covered and in the car. Super Dida and I (Super Grandma) will leave here early tomorrow morning, and give ourselves over to the excitement of seeing our little Emperor George become four in style.  Time for tired old super grandma to go to bed, and gather her strength for the onslaught of teeny super people at eleven tomorrow morning.

Grandma, how old are you?  
George, I am quite old now.  What age do you think I am?
Nine?  Is that the biggest number you can think of?
You're so old Grandma, that you are nine.

Batman, Wonder Lilz and Spider Man chilling, as they do.


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Sunday 8 December 2019

Not old yet, but thinking about it. Could be any time now, but still loving reggae and red lipstick.

Not my granddad.

My granddad used to give us riddles.  Make sense of this, he would say, just add two commas -

Time flies you can't they fly too fast


Over the last few years, the weeks have got smaller, the days shorter and it seems as if every day is Friday.  I get to Friday, and feel as if I have only just finished the last one.  I know there have been days in between, but none of them lasted long and once again it is Friday.

And of course, the Friday doesn't last long either.  It is true, what our old people say, that as we get older, time passes faster.  I am not yet old, but I am entering into the the second part of life, I am just at the start of this getting older journey.  Things are changing, I am changing and time is gathering speed. The wonderful Franciscan priest and teacher Father Richard Rohr suggests that we spend the first half of our lives building our container, the second half examining it's contents.  I am definitely examining my contents.

The physical things I notice most are

  1. I have less energy. I like a good sit down.
  2. I notice aches and pains in my body, not all the time, but enough so that when I get out of bed or the car or a chair, I stand and stretch before walking off.
  3. Underneath this hair dye, I am totally grey and white
  4. My voice is deeper
  5. I put on weight faster than ever before 
  6. I love to sleep.  I get into my bed at night and am shocked that I ever thought it necessary to leave it at all that morning.  What was I thinking of!  I say as I lie on the memory foam mattress under the exciting duvet of my choice.  This is my spiritual home, I think, I will stay here for a month.
A brown scarf, not fancy brown
hair do. Growing my hair out, you
can see the white just beginning
to show. 
And of course, I notice that time is moving faster. I feel that I am slower and time has sped up.  I make plans for months in advance thinking, that event is far away, there is plenty of time to prepare.  Suddenly, it is the night before, and then the event takes place, and it is done.  It is gone. What was so far away once is now in the past.  My relationship with time has changed, it has had to.  Time is still colourless, odourless, silent and constant but I notice it more.  I am aware of it, not because it has made itself known to me, but because I am moving out of my youth and into older age, and I have begun to look at it with interest.  It is possible that I think I move through time faster now, because at some point, time runs out for us, and there is less time ahead of me now, and I am becoming more aware of this.  There will come a moment when I do not finish the twenty four hours in that particular day or night. It is also possible that I remain constant, and time has begun to change around me, because it can, and this is part of the human journey.  It is possible that none of these things are true, and that I am simply becoming used to time passing, and that it is no big deal that every few days seem to be Friday.  Time has concertina'd for me, because that is how I perceive it.  Nothing has changed except my perception.

Someone once said that the passing of time is marked by atrophy.  I liked this, because trying to make time into something sensible and easy to understand can make my head spin.  A definition of atrophy is

Atrophy - waste away, especially as a result of the degeneration of cells, or become vestigial during evolution.  (Vestigial - "forming a very small remnant of something that was once greater or more noticeable")

Bit wordy, but I take it to mean that matter degenerates.  We can infer the passing of time because an object has changed and finally disappears.  An apple, for example.  From falling from a tree to decomposing in our kitchen, there is a change and we put it down to the passing of time.  Leave it long enough and that apple will disappear.  We can mark this thing called time using the example of an apple, because it has evolved and changed shape and so, in order to explain that, we think that something called time has caused it to move from being fresh and juicy, to being withered, brown and rotten.

I am powerless over time.  I am coming to terms with this.  Time just happens, and what I took for granted before (endless time and space for me to work out what I am doing here), I no longer take for granted.  I am not old yet, but it is where I am going and as I have said above, there is an end point coming.  Next year I will be sixty.  I am told that sixty is the new forty, which is great, but I am not forty.  I was forty twenty years ago, and now I am going to be sixty.  

Here are some non physical observations about being older

  1. I am braver.  I can go to events without the same worries as when I was forty.  I can hold my own and do not have to impress anyone (though of course, I still want to impress everyone and be loved and adored, it is just that I am more realistic about it happening).
  2. I am NOT so brave.  I do not want to put myself into stressful situations in order to gain something or other from them.  I prefer to sit on my sofa here and feel relief that whatever lessons I could have learned or contacts I could have made through being bold are safely never going to happen.
  3. Silence is my friend.  I love silence and can hear the ticking of clocks, the humming of the washing machine, the dropping of rain or the swishing of leaves in the wind and that seems very loud indeed and very lovely in the silence of turning off radios and televisions and all manufactured noise.
  4. I am surprised at quite how young the young are.  They are a race apart.  My sons have friends in their twenties, and though I love them all, I do not know what they are talking about or why they look like they do.  They probably feel the same about me.  
  5. I am a widow.  Once, being married and raising my children was everything to me.  Now, with my children grown up and safely into adulthood, I love just my own company.  I never gave myself much attention when I was younger (I didn't like myself very much), but now I find that I am quite interesting, there is much to get to know.  Who would have thought that an evening in silence and completely alone with my flannelette pyjamas in my own home, with nothing to do except watch the fairy lights and smell the lovely candles, would be enough?  That would have been a great big fail once upon a time.
  6. I am beginning to understand the Buddhist idea of not getting hung up on the outcome.  I would change that to not getting too hung up on the outcome, I am not yet fully enlightened.  I still like a bit of outcome.  This means not becoming so invested in results that the journey is both hard to begin, and if begun, fraught with fear of failure.  I am of course, longing for success and adulation, but the intention and the journey seem to be much more peaceful things on which to focus.  The success and adulation are possibly quite empty things (though jolly nice to receive), because if the whole purpose of any undertaking is to have affirmation and confirmation of worth from outside, from other people, then we are only ever as good as other people say we are.  And other people are notoriously fickle. So I am much more connected these days, to the work I do as an end in itself.  
So here I am.  Aged fifty nine and a half, teetering on the edge of old age, curious about the grey and white hair underneath my brown dye and getting philosophical about life.  

In many ways I am still only just in my twenties.  What made me myself then, is still present now.  I like reggae, I like to do what I want, I love to mix bold colours and wear them all at once, lipstick is my friend, I am really arty, I see fairies in the hedgerows - and so on.  But life, which happens to us all, has given me some fairly sink-or-swim experiences, and has provided me with wonders such as children, grandchildren and husbands. Life has tempered the good and the bad with priceless teachers and moments that have saved me, changed my mind, and moved me on.  Get out of jail free cards, I call them.  Like the poem by St Teresa of Avila that fell from a book just when I thought my god had abandoned me because of my uselessness and insignificance.  The Let nothing disturb thee and the All things are passing were all that I needed to know just then.  Each time I read the poem after it fell out of the book at my feet, a line jumped out at me and told me all would be well - 

Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee;
All things are passing;
God never changeth.
Patient endurance 
Attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth 
In nothing is wanting;
God alone sufficeth.

One of the many benefits of getting older, of examining the contents of my container, is that I accept small miracles as part of my life.  On the one hand, my sometime friend, sometime adversary called Time, has taken away so many things that I expected to travel the years with me.  For example, my husband Alan, my partner Steve, my smooth skin and my boundless energy.  On the other hand, Time has given me perspective, grandchildren, pleasure in my own company and a desire to cut through the nonsense and to get to the point of things.  And people.  

And finally, Time is allowing me to think about my own mortality.  I am not old, not really, not yet.  But there may be less time ahead than behind me.  It is time to consider the winding down of things so that when I have to do it properly, I can do it well.  Unless I die suddenly and unexpectedly from falling down a man hole in the street, or  under the wheels of a crazy out of control combine harvester, in which case I won't have much time to prepare and St Teresa will have to add a new line to her poem -

Get thy will sorted
God may have 
A sense of humour

Time flies, you can't, they fly too fast.  So it wasn't about time at all in the end, it was about timing flies.  Thanks Grandad. 
Passing through time with my grandchildren.  Or, on Bognor Beach as the tide goes out.  Both quite poetic. 

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