‘If you could choose your ideal age to live at, what would it be?’The question came from my 15 year old granddaughter. We were sitting with her parents, having lunch.‘What would you choose?’ I asked, playing for time.‘I would like to stay at 26.’Her parents chose 41 and 38, knocking around ten years off the reality. I thought a bit more and surprised myself with ‘62’. I was well past 70, and beginning to feel my age (apologies to The Bold Age). But 62 was the year I became a grandparent, an extraordinarily joyful and enriching experience. It had brought back memories of the day when our own daughter was born, when Shoko and I first became parents – walking on air (and waking through the nights). Being a grandparent was not as intense, but in some ways richer and more relaxing.Children and grandchildren: past, present and future in my new identity. I am grateful every day for this amazing gift. But I have learned that these relationships are not static. I can’t stay at 62, and we have to keep on re-negotiating our relationships. Shoko and l had already learned, quite a long time ago, that we had to listen to our children’s advice and increasing instructions. They were expressing their care for us, and we appreciated it – though we didn’t always follow their instructions. They found us stubborn, while we thought they didn’t fully understand. (Of course it didn’t matter if some things stayed in the fridge a bit beyond their ‘sell by’ date. They were absolutely fine).But after Shoko had gone our relationships changed again. It had begun when her dementia took hold and we watched as she seemed to disappear. When she had actually gone it was another change. The children were remarkably kind and thoughtful, but something – someone – was missing, and we responded differently. We grieved in different ways, and came to terms with different emotions. We had different views about life after death.The first Christmas, we were all together and it was wonderful. But we clashed a couple of times. The next time it happened again.‘You have become so grumpy’, I was told. My attempts at humour weren’t appreciated: too sarcastic.I listened carefully. I was grumpy, I knew. I was still raw, and I could never be to our children what their mother had been. I realised too that they were facing their own pressures as they cared for their families and handled increasing work responsibilities. We talked and I tried to explain.‘We are all re-negotiating our relationship,’ I said. ‘I am trying to find my new identity and you are learning to relate to me as I am. And the demands on you are changing and growing. It’s happening all the time.’We are closer than ever before. Both of the children, and the grandchildren, are loving and affectionate. We mourn together, laugh together, remember Shoko and what she means to us, and keep on working at our changing relationships. I try to follow their instructions (some of the time).I would like to stay at 62. But life and relationships keep moving. Relationships challenge us sometimes, but as we address them they can grow deeper.
Boldie Thanks:Thanks to Simon Migaj for the great photo curated on Unsplash