Monday, July 30, 2012

Age From a New Angle

JoAnn Swearingen, author and artist

Perhaps I’m seeing age from a different angle, but it seems that society’s opinion of age has changed. I remember my grandmother. While cleaning out closets I came across the beginning of a biscuit quilt that my grandmother created out of scraps—rags, stuff that we think today belong in the landfill or never see because we don’t let our clothes disintegrate into scraps. We prefer paper towels and quilts from the antique store or local boutique. Grandma’s quilts are treasured, but we don’t have time or the need to use up every inch of what we have.
 I didn’t see her as “old’ although today she would qualify as a senior citizen. To me, she was intriguing. I thought my parents knew a lot, but she seemed to know more. My mom knew how to crochet, tat, and knit but didn’t produce the beautiful décor that my grandmother had.  
Nursing homes were deemed horrible places and only the poor were doomed to live there. Spare rooms and grandma suites were provided for many. Grandmothers and sometimes aging aunts took care of the home and children while the parents worked. My grandmother didn’t come to live with us, but I wish she had. She taught me to crochet, but I could have learned so much more. How she a housewife summoned the courage to move into a house in town and live by herself for a while when grandpa refused to. But it was only the beginning of that era of retiring to a place in town, and she soon moved back to the farm.
            When it came her turn, my mother progressed graciously into great-grand motherhood. She faithfully sent letters every week and cards on special occasions.  My children and grandchildren still remember how loved they felt when a few dollars came in the mail every year at birthday and Christmas time. They welcomed her correspondence as something as precious as those bygone quilts painstakingly sewn together by the light of a coal oil lamp by my grandmother. My oldest grandchildren are almost grown now, and I feel I’m becoming one generation removed from the family. My children and eventually my grandchildren will all scatter. If we’re fortunate, we’ll be able to have holiday get-togethers, but the sense of family has changed. My grandmother filled the void with teaching lost arts and my mother with letters, cards and small money gifts.
But what am I going to contribute?
I’m transforming myself into a “technie” to keep up because even my e-mails fail to get answered today—texting is the in thing. However, texting is evolving into skyping. If great-grandma wants her great-grands to know what she looks like and/or talk to her, she’ll have to buy a special telephone and set up a skype account.
Something seems wrong with that picture. And I’m not sure how to “fix” it or how I can toggle into the modern generations with my “old-fashioned” ways. After thinking about it, I’ve decided perhaps keeping pace with the changing technical world is not what the grandchildren or children, whether mine or those of a friend, want from me. Instead, they sincerely want to know what it was like when I was a child, a young adult, or if their grandmother, a young mother raising their mom or dad, etc.  Our youngest grandson heard about war at school and wanted to know all about what being in the “service” was like for granddad.
I couldn’t resist and also told him what it was like when granddad and I met. I told him grandpa told me I was “beautiful.” He loved it, but his response? “Ewwww.”

Nope, being an old gal or geezer may have its connotations, but it’s also a good thing. And I feel it’s up to us aging matriarchs and patriarchs to determine for ourselves what of value we want to imprint in the minds of the future generations. And figure out how we can link our pasts with their present and futures. 

JoAnn is a writer and artist. Visit her art website at: 
and her blog at

art website:


B. J. Robinson said...

Enjoyed your post :) I've sent cards and communicated via Facebook, but I feel the same as you. Blessings, BJ Robinson

Liz Flaherty said...

Great post! I'm in the same place, scrambling to keep up, but you've made me think I don't have to. My grands treasure the quilts I've made them since I retired more than they do my ability to text.

Gail Kittleson said...

Daring to bloom.....(That's my tagline, but I haven't figured out how to have it come up....

Anyway, I could relate to this post. My grandkids were just here for an hour, and I spent most of the time either playing ball or cutting flowers, and teaching my granddaughter how to deadhead them for another rash of blooms later on.

I'm trying to do the techy catch-up business, too, but when they come, something in me says DROP EVERYTHING, they're here. Those reading/flower/ball times are priceless. I don't crochet, knit, I hope they remember these other things we do together.

JoAnn S. said...

B.J.--Thanks. We're probably communicating better than we think we are.
Liz--Glad it resonated with you. That's what I concluded. Today's generation needs our continuity and stability. When my hubby and I were first married, my mom kept writing to me about the irises blooming. Life was crazy for me, but I concluded that as long as those iris kept blooming, I was going to be all right! JoAnn

JoAnn S. said...

Gail--Love your tag line. Reminds me of the book, I think the title is The Color Purple. Sounds like you made the hour memorable. Good strategy--Drop Everything and just give them some attention, letting them them know you love and treasure them! Thanks for sharing. JoAnn

tomynate said...

Nice article. I'm not sure what works best for our six children and fourteen grandchildren. We do have a family brunch once a month. All of our children but one live in the area. I, grampa Tom, do all the cooking. My one rule is, "You can order eggs any way you want them, but you have to take them any way you get them."


Tom Blubaugh, Author
Night of the Cossack

JoAnn S. said...

Thanks, Tom.
Wow! That could be a lot to cook for. Love your comment to the grand kids about cooking eggs and how they are when you serve then. Bet they all look forward to coming to your house.At our house, we compare likes and dislikes. I like to eat butter raw and have two grandchildren who do,too.

Ann Buckley said...

Hi JoAnn,
I enjoyed reading your article, particularly because it made me think about your mom. I was one of the fortunate recipients of her letters once we made that genealogy connection almost 20 years ago! Since then, I also got to meet you and all the rest of the clan! I'm still doing research, and I miss Opal very much, I can only imagine how much you must also miss her.
I hope all is well with you!
Love,Your cousin, Ann Buckley

TNeal said...

JoAnn, enjoyed reading how you processed your grandmother's influence and role in your life then applied the thoughts to your own place in the world of your grandchildren. I'm not quite there yet but can appreciate the wisdom you've shared for the rest of us.

JoAnn S. said...

Good to hear from you! Yes, connecting family was my mom's legacy. Because she searched for my Dad's parents and siblings, she understood the significance of those ties.
T Neal,
Thank you for the comment. In my opinion, the "style" of grand parenting, whether a child who is related or one we have befriended, may have changed, but the positive impact it can have on a child hasn't.

Mary Annslee Urban said...

Enjoyed your post JoAnn! Words of wisdom and touching! Blessings! Mary