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60 to 60: Aging is for the Birds

I visited my Gram a lot in my young adulthood. She lived in a sweet mobile home community in central Florida for many years after exiting the Bronx in 1970. She and I were connected, a lot alike. I watched her closely. Even in the bathroom. My grandmother used to put down her tall can of Miss Breck aerosol hairspray (after permanently damaging our lungs, with her full ten seconds of spraying, I’m sure). She’d look at me, glance in the mirror and shake her head back and forth.

“Just WHO IS that old lady looking back at me?” She feigned shock.

“It’s you, Gram and you’re beautiful,” I tried.

“This aging business is for the birds!” she’d exclaim, still with a thick accent after all these years.

Then she’d pivot away from the mirror, turn off the bathroom light dramatically and laugh her way down the hall. Her hairdo never moved as her head went back and forth. “For the birds, I say!” she’d further proclaim, as she put on the kettle for a wee tea.

If somebody says something is 'for the birds', it’s like saying it’s shit. When there was only horse-drawn traffic, people would look at the piles of horse poop and say well, THAT is for the birds. The way Gram said it was humorous. She was teaching me that as we age, it’s really good to be able to laugh at the process. After all, aren’t we the lucky ones.

Gram was described, at one time in her life, as “Hollywood glamorous.” This is ironic, given that she immigrated from Scotland, lived in a walk-up in the Bronx, and then, very modest homes throughout her life, always working. There was little shine associated with serving wealthy people in private clubs or later, running a department store cosmetics counter. Her glamour was not wealth nor jewels. It was her natural beauty and her ability to laugh that people noticed.

I loved hanging out with Gram’s friends, who also had terrific senses of humor about ‘seasoning’. After gathering for a gin and tonic or two, and some frozen mini-quiche appetizers, one woman, in her late 80s, would attempt to get up off the couch only to discover her tummy was preventing her from rising and she’d fall back in fits of laughter. Several of the ladies’ legs would shoot up into the air almost at exact the same time as they tossed their head back with open-mouthed laughter. “Mae, don’t make me laugh; you’re going to make me wet my pants.” “Oh Betty, let me help you up” and this would start yet another fit of laughter.

These birds seemed a-ok with aging. I learned to laugh at myself from my Gram. Which really comes in handy these days...

Glamour Gram, NY, late 40s.

Here we are giggling about our noses, FL, mid-80s.


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