Aging with Grace: Hands Across the Generations

I’ve heard that in the absence of disease the organ that would wear out first is our skin.  On the outside if we compare each other or try to guess someone’s age it is a person’s skin that provides the most clues to an accurate guess.  Our skin is the largest organ in the body and it is exposed to more things in more ways that can cause harm than other body parts.  Luckily for us it regenerates like crazy.

I was playing bunco with my aunts and my grandmother in April at Aunt Terri’s house (Happy Birthday Aunt Terri) on Sunday and I has the pleasure of playing the last two games, desert and prizes sitting next to Grandma Mary.  Grandma Mary is as sharp as a tack at age 98 and she loves to be around people.  I marvel at how she’s done it; what is the secret to living to 98 and living in your home, moving on her own and being so sharp of mind?

Grandma says she is NOT a “Gabor” referring to Zsa Zsa’s quote “I want to be alone”.  Grandma never wants to be alone and when you’ve had 12 children there isn’t much of a chance of that coming true.  I’ve read that a way to stay young is to have relationships that cross the generations.  Well just being with family crosses several generations and keeps her engaged.  She never is too tired to miss a first communion, a birthday, bunco, our annual christmas gathering.  or to hang out with those who come visit her at her house.

I took a look at my grandma’s hands.  I always thought my mother and I had very similar hands but I could see a generation of age between them.  Grandma’s hands were beautiful in how they’ve aged with her but functioned like my own.  She has nice nails, a steady hand and no arthritis that I’ve heard about.  She typed for a living – labels for mass mailings (what did we do before computers?).  I took a picture of her hands, my hands and my Aunt Virgie’s hands for comparison.

Grandma’s hands are soft and solid even though her skin seems thin and delicate.  She said her hands were ugly and didn’t want me to take the picture but then held still as I steadied my camera to get our three hands in the photo.  She is so patient with pictures; I can’t recall an occasion that she wouldn’t participate or honor a request for a photo.  This is another thing that must allow one to live longer – you just have to roll with the requests as they come in.

A man’s age is something impressive, it sums up his life:  maturity reached slowly and against many obstacles, illnesses cured, griefs and despairs overcome, and unconscious risks taken; maturity formed through so many desires, hopes, regrets, forgotten things, loves.  A man’s age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories. 

~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wartime Writings 1939-1944, translated from French by Norah Purcell

I believe playing bunco with my family has added years to my life.  It’s like my mother’s gift to me in leaving this world, she made it so I, like Grandma would never have to be alone.  I have these new connections that I would have never experienced.  Playing bunco with my Aunts is like being with every version of my mom if I just pay attention.  And playing with Grandma helps me realize that having a family like she has means being part of a family like she is.

I see my mom’s hands in mine.  I have a glimpse of where my hands may go looking at my Grandmothers.  I will apply lotion (thanks Beags for letting us try your prize) and keep them soft so they will age with grace and roll multiple buncos in a night for years with my family.  I have to take care of them for the next 55 years to come or however many bunco rolls I get to play.

Love you Grandma – Michelle