Happy Birthday to Me/Lessons from My 95 Year Old Grandmother

Imagine being alive for 95 years. What could you accomplish? What would you accomplish? What would you wish you had accomplished?

A few weekends ago, I was in Texas for my cousin’s wedding. Beautiful ceremony, tasty cake, I caught the bouquet.

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But, this post isn’t about that. It’s about spending a weekend with a woman on the verge of 95: my grandmother, or as everyone calls her, Muddah (which is really “Mother,” however, we’re Trinidadian, so it comes off as “Muddah,” or “Muds” for short).

Some of my first memories in life are set in her 3 bedroom house in Movart, Trinidad. She’s one of the first people I remember taking care of me, giving me the first of many nicknames, Luxy. 31 years later, my family still calls me that.

I remember laying underneath a mosquito net, on her bed, next to her, feeling so secure. She would tell me the most inappropriate stories about vampires biting toes at night and what foolishness happened in town that day. Now that I’m old enough to process everything, I truly believe a good chunk of my inappropriateness and candidness came from my grandmother. One story, she told my father, was about my grandfather not wanting her to work. She said “I wrote down my pay on a slip of paper, passed it to him, and said ‘if you can put this amount of money in an envelope the last full day of the month, I will stop working.'” My father asked “what happened?” Her response: I kept working.

Although my grandmother looks to be in excellent physical shape, walking on her own and sporting her own teeth, her short term memory is shot. When I arrived in Texas, she told me she didn’t know who I was, walked around me, and went into her room. I know I lost a lot of weight and cut my hair since the last time she saw me, but damn! I fought back tears, followed her into her room, where she told me I looked like her granddaughter, Ayanna. No matter how many times I told her I was Ayanna, she’d forget within 5 minutes.

I listened intently to all of her stories, even though most were repeats (she would literally tell the same story 4 times in a row on a constant loop). It seemed to bring so much happiness to her, reliving those moments, that I didn’t mind hearing them over and over. But, as she spoke, I wondered if she was satisfied and proud of all she had accomplished. I wondered what mattered most to her at each phase of her life. I wondered what advice she could provide her confused, 31 year old granddaughter. Unfortunately, though she was physically with me, she was mentally incapable of answering these questions.

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My vision on who I want to be resembles a blurry, out of focus picture; you can make out who’s in the picture, and MAYBE a few details, but there’s still a lot of stuff, too out of focus to decipher. I’m not sure how to get clear. I wish I knew the exact steps. However, what I’m realizing is I am a trailblazer in this thing called “Ayanna’s Life.” So was my grandmother in her life, and so is everyone in their life! No one gave Muddah instructions on how to raise 10 kids, but she managed and did a damn good job (with most of them)! At the end of the day, life will have happened, life will continue to happen. There’s no right or wrong approach; just choice and consequence.

Muddah seemed to make a lot of choices that led to a long life filled with tons of kids, grand kids, and great-great grand kids; all who love her so much! I hope to make choices resulting in some fun, fun consequences.

So, here, on my 31st birthday, as I sit at a job I hate with all my soul, I think about my grandmother. I think about what I plan to do with the remainder of my life. I know it’s not sitting here in this cube. Next year, this day, when I embark on year 32 in my life, I will physically, spiritually, and mentally be in another place. This is my promise to myself.

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4 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to Me/Lessons from My 95 Year Old Grandmother

  1. Love this post! I know you will treasure the moments shared with Muddah for a lifetime. My Gram went home earlier this year and it still feels raw. Kinda like I just haven’t seen her in a while. Anyway, here’s to great memories, realization of your dreams and making more… Happy bday again!

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