Sages, Crones, and Other Wise Ones
In my heart,I hold a memory. My Grandmother is in her early 80's. We have come across the state to see her, picking her up at her retirement center and driving her across the street for lunch at Applebees. She has ordered steak, and a margarita, and white wine. It is 11:30am.
Grandma's hands are gnarled by arthritis, so I help her cut her steak. She weighs about 99 pounds these days, but she eats with relish. "Ummm.This steak is so good. Ummmm! Can I try your shrimp? "
After the margarita and before I can surreptitiously chug most of her wine, Grandma picks up her glass and leans over to me conspiratorially.
"I got a tattoo, you know."
This happened a year ago. Grandma, at 82, had been suddenly longing for a tattoo, and talked about it incessantly. Finally, my Aunt, in an uncharacteristic burst of caregiver frustration said, "Fine, Mom! Go get a tattoo!" My rebel cousin, Eric, was there at the time, and he and Grandma decided to take that as a go-ahead. The next week Eric and Grandma went on a field trip. When they got back, both cuz' and granny had new ink.
"It's an angel on my shoulder." she says. Here, Grandma paused for a dramatic swig of the house white, "I have my beliefs you know!"
Indeed I do know, though I've had to listen between the lines to find them. Grandma, always the spunky edge dweller, never towed the protestant line. Instead she knit together a spirituality that combined a little of big of Blackfoot folklore; a strong pull towards the mountains; and some affection for Jesus on the side. This angel -- a small smear of blue-green ink on the soft wrinkled skin of her shoulder blade--this is her guide now, helping her through the drawn out years of her 'final days', and into the unknown and unknowable hereafter.
I take heart in my Grandma's tattoo; in her love for the hillside she re-planted with pines after the fire; in her sudden insistence that all the great-grandchildren have leather-clad Bibles with their names embossed in gold. She has created her own path--godward, onward. In these her final days, when stories spill out of her like down from a pillow, she has helped me to see that my gender, my era, and my distracted spiritual self can help me find the way to my most soul-felt home.
Other bloggers writing about the wisdom of our elders this week:
Tess Marshall at Anchors and Masts has a new take on the Red Riding Hood fable, and points out that Grandma was already living in the forest we are supposed to fear. (It's an 'ah-ha moment' -- go read it)
And while this piece has already been highlighted by Virginia in her wise weekly column, I think it's worth another mention here...Elizabeth Glass at The Couch sums up a neat list of lessons the elders in her life have bequeathed her.
Next Week in this column: Reflections on the Summer Solstice. Are you planning on blogging about the Light? Email me your post's permalink: moi at magpie dash girl dot com.