My grandma will be ninety years old this next spring and she still lives on her farm in South Georgia, where I have a thousand memories of naming cows, petting goats, jumping off hay bales in the barn, walking with my granddaddy down the worn path into the fields, and eating bowls and bowls of buttery grits in my grandma's kitchen.
My dad and I drove down to visit my grandma a few weekends ago and while I was there I had a chance to do some reminiscing, which is a luxury I almost never get to indulge in. (I think that may have something to do with every one of my waking moments being filled with unending cries for "Juice!" and "Shows!" and "Snacks!")
Being somewhere for twenty-four hours without Matt or the kiddos opened up the floodgates of complete thoughts, childhood memories, and emotions that I've been vaguely unaware of since 2009 (Sam's arrival on Earth). I felt a little teary, the good kind, during a large portion of those twenty-four, rather non-eventful hours. There's something about being in a place that lives and breathes in a rhythm that isn't hurried or overly busy or straining to be something that it's not. Places like that remind me that most of life's beauty is often tucked into the pockets of the simplest things.
The sunset that night we were there was fiery red and orange and it backlit the horizon behind the trees and the fields and the barn. My grandma saw it through the window and called us all to come look at it. Something about her appreciation of that sunset, despite the reality of her daily life in an aging body with all its aches and pains, was significant to me. There was something poignant about her valuing that display of beauty in the sky that night and it made me hopeful.
I think my grandma is most likely 24 years old in her mind and the reality of her 89 year-old outside seems so incongruent with her youthful spirit. It's hard to see someone who has always been so vibrant and energetic making her way into the last season of life. But, at the same time, she still drives her shiny red Buick to get her hair done every Friday morning and she still gets "gussied up" to go to church, and her eyes still light up when she sees my two little ones running around her yard hunting for pecans.
Lately, I've been having a hard time with the fact that at 37, I am no longer a proverbial spring chicken, which mainly means I've had to ban myself from shopping at American Eagle. I've also been spending some free time researching magical wrinkle potions and solutions to crows' feet. It's been a little bit of an issue for me, and as it turns out, Matt's kind of over hearing me whine about it. Apparently, he doesn't feel the same angst over the fact that my neck is starting to look older than my face. I, however, am considering a Kickstarter fund to "Save My Neck." Feel free to join that.
But, despite all the weird emotions I'm having these days about my fears of getting old, I'm struck by the simplicity of the life my grandma is living right now and how she's not whining about her lost youth or her less than perfect skin tone. She's too busy taking in a late summer sunset from her back porch. And this reminds me that the kind of beauty I should be wanting isn't something I'll find in a $78 bottle of "magical" skin-firming cream.
I remember hearing Beth Moore explain once that, in her opinion, women increase in beauty until age forty, and after that, they increase in wisdom. Part of me wants to tell Beth to keep her mouth shut because at 37, that means I've got approximately 2.5 years left to be remotely attractive. And yet, at the same time, I'm starting to see in an up close and personal way that youth very literally fades and, if I'm honest, I really do want to value wisdom over what I look like in the mirror. I'm slowly starting to believe that the state of my heart really does matter a bit more than the state of my skin.
I hope that if I make it to 89, that I won't be sitting around feeling bitter about my gray hair or my imperfect complexion. I hope that I'll be standing on my back porch watching the sun light up the twilight and that I will still feel grateful for simple joys.