By Jon Berman
Long walks on the beach. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of my 99 year- old grandmother. Visiting her last week did not erase my memory of the stronger woman I knew growing up. Partly because she’s still walking- sometimes with a cane, but she’s still walking.
We used to walk down Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts, every day. Sometimes it was on the beach along with my mother, all the way to the end. Sometimes it was just with my then 70 year old grandmother from where we lived on D Street up to A Street, where she would reward my sisters and me with an ice cream. And sometimes we would sit on the porch and watch a storm roll in.
I couldn’t wait to get away from Hull back then. I was bored. But I wasn’t really… Now I look back at those memories and visit them in my mind. I tell stories and write songs about those memories, but nothing comes close to experiencing my grandmother today.
Every once in a while she complains. It could be getting tired at the end of the day, or that her legs just won’t do what she tells them to. She says: “it takes so long to do anything” and the response to her is “what’s your hurry? You’re 99!” and she laughs. The problem isn’t that she can’t do something, it just takes too long!
I can’t figure out where my roots in music came from because neither of my parents ever had an interest in music. My grandmother did, though. I’d say that she used to sing, but she still sings today. Only a couple times a month in a sing along group, but it is a continued love that she has. And that’s the thing…
My grandmother doesn’t stop. She genuinely enjoys life. She enjoys food, discussion, news, music, and learning. She’ll hear about something, and ask what someone thinks about it. She will see something on tv and it will challenge her to remember all she saw. But she will. It’s a challenge to get into a car and visit or go out to lunch. But she will. Some days are exhausting and uncomfortable. But she has will.
When I hear friends and family (or me!) complain of being tired, I think of my grandmother who raised three kids in Boston and still sets an example today. I still take off my hat when I see her. She doesn’t stand for hats on indoors.
A lot of times in my life I have seen the older generation as I’ve gone about the day, and watch as people pass them by. Often I’ll say good afternoon, which no doubt causes the other party to wonder what’s wrong with me, but I’d hate to see my grandmother ignored. Sometimes I’ll meet a new friend, hear an old story, or learn something new. Sometimes I just get a smile back implying “leave me alone crazy guy” or that someone’s just glad to be acknowledged. It may just be a moment, but it might make both of our days.
Jon Berman is a musician who lives in Blandford. He can be reached at email@example.com