My Grandmother is 36,525 Days Young
By Cam Mather
I owned an album in the 70’s by the Moody Blues (perhaps I shouldn’t be admitting this publicly) which had a song called “22,000 Days.” I gather that this represents how many days most of us can expect to live. 22,000 divided by 365 is 60 years, which would sound like a pretty good average age to write a song about.
Well, my grandmother has lived 36,525 days. She just celebrated her 100th birthday and is still going strong. My cousin Dave pointed out that you multiply 100 years by 365 days in the year but then you need to remember that every four years we have a leap year with an extra day, so I added an extra 25 days on for those.
What a concept. One hundred years. As I get out of bed these days, especially if I’ve been working in the garden the day before, I feel lots of aches and pains and it takes me longer and longer to get going. I have trouble imagining how I’ll feel after another 50 years. Grandma is still getting around just fine. Up until last year she had never had a medical problem, and then a few things started to act up. And really, can you imagine anything, any organism, or muscle, or system in your body continuing to work and repair itself for 100 years?
The party was held at Grandma’s cottage in Muskoka. Michelle wasn’t able to come but she baked Grandma a raspberry pie with berries out of our garden. Michelle had been talking to Grandma on the phone one day a few months ago and mentioned to Grandma that she had baked a raspberry pie. Grandma said, “Oh, I wish I lived closer. I love raspberry pie.” And Michelle made unquestionably the best card of the day, because it was homemade. It turns out that Grandma got the same two card designs, over and over again. Apparently there must not be a huge demand for 100th birthdays cards, so card makers don’t bother to provide much of a selection.
I got up to Muskoka a day early so that I could spend some quiet time with Grandma and she’s as sharp as ever. I was asking her a lot of questions about the Mather side of the family tree, where she was born, who was who, and she had no problem filling in all the blanks. I remember visiting her mother, Great Grandma Long when Grandma had moved back into her house in Toronto after her husband had died. Grandma Long lived a very long life as well, and she ate a peanut butter and banana sandwich everyday. I’ve taken note.
Grandma won’t credit anything specific for her long life. She smoked a bit when she was young, but not for long. She drank a bit, but mostly Harvey Wallbangers that my Dad forced on her at Christmas in the 70’s. She eats just about anything you can think of in small portions, especially later in life. She shared stories about growing up with chickens in her backyard in Toronto and how she had to run the gauntlet through the backyard after school to avoid the rooster that stalked and chased her.
She talked about taking the streetcar to work as a young adult at a time when very few people had cars. And taking the train to Muskoka for her first summer holidays there.
Grandma has always had a great sense of humor and is able to tolerate the juvenile ramblings of my cousin and me that continue to today. On her birthday my dad asked her “When did you actually feel like you were going to make it to 100?” and she said “Yesterday.”
Grandma was born in 1911. What a concept. There were no cell phones. Or computers. Or automatic transmissions. Or jets and air travel. People ate food that was grown locally. They ate seasonally. They worked long hard days, and did most things manually. They built their own houses. They made their own fun. There were no TVs. Radios only would have been available as she got older. I simply can’t imagine the changes she has seen in her life. I can’t imagine the changes I’ve seen in the last year of my life. At the birthday party my sister kept taking pictures on her Blackberry and uploading the photos to a webpage so that my nephew in Nova Scotia could watch the proceedings as they unfolded. Heaven forbid anyone in this day and age has to wait for photos to arrive by mail.
My sister Cindy had arranged for letters of congratulations from the local Mayor, the Premier of Ontario, the Prime Minister of Canada, and best of all, The Queen! And it was signed “Elizabeth!” Like they’re old friends. It gave me something to strive for, one of those signed letters from the Queen congratulating me on joining the 100-year club.
My mother’s mom, Grace Micklethwaite loved to drink and eat red meat and probably smoked too when she was younger, if I know her. And she lived into her 90s. So I’m figuring with these genes I’m pretty much bullet proof. This worrying about what I eat is for losers. So I’m embarking on a new life attitude.
Henceforth I am going to smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day, eat a large, thick bar-b-qued steak, and wash it all down with several bottles of whiskey. And why not, with genes like mine? Hey Michelle, help me find a local skydiving club on the web. I’m taking up a new hobby!