“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Who’s Your Grandma? Part I


hen I was a little girl, I thought my grandmothers looked like real grandmothers. My maternal grandmother, Lillie Belle Smith Coine, wore these black leather shoes that looked like high-button shoes with the high part cut off, leaving the laces/buttons part on the top of your feet. She wore these kinds of shoes until the marketplace just threw them all in garbage cans all over the U.S.

My paternal grandmother, Mary Aileen Davis Cravey, wore these house dresses that were belted at the waist with thin belts covered in the same material as the dress. She had fine blonde/gray hair that she twisted, wound around some kind of way, and pinned on her head with bobby pins and hair combs. She powdered her face with ghost-colored loose powder.

When I grew up, I still thought they looked like grandmothers ought to look.

Today’s grandmothers, of which I am one, just don’t seem to look like grandmothers. Admittedly, my perception comes from being on the inside looking out.

It can’t just be life expectancy. My grandmothers lived to be 87 and 94, way more than today’s life expectancy for an American Caucasian woman. No way can I beat that: I wore spiked heels as a young adult, I smoked, I’ve been putting stuff on my hair, probably toxic stuff, for about 50 years. Further, I don’t make homemade biscuits, and I suffer from Road Rage and cussing.

We look different, I think, from traditional grandmothers. Botox, cosmetic surgeries, and Photoshop come to mind here.

But a little girl at my granddaughter Joanna Leigh’s school wanted me to pick her up the other day. She ran up to me with her hands up and said, “Mama!” Then she corrected herself and said, “Grandmama?” She was confused.

Maybe we do look like grandmothers. Suddenly I’m just not sure.

The Aging Czar

Those of us born in 1943 are likely grandmothers, and we’ve been riding point for the Baby Boomers all our lives. The birth rate spiked in ‘43, dropped just a bit in ‘44, and began the unrelenting upward rise that went from ‘46 to ‘64.

Next year, the moment of truth begins: True Boomers start turning 65, so they’re hot on our heels, aiming to devour our Social Security, Medicare, and whatever else they can gobble up. We’ll be looking over our shoulders at them for years. In front of us stand Sarah Palin’s Death Panels.

My grandmothers were born in the 1890s and lived into the 1980s; they saw an awful lot in their lives.

But, you know, we’ve seen a lot too. We began with staring at upright boxes that held tiny black and white television sets with rabbit ears, through birth control pills, to microchips; now we’re staring at our Blackberries and iPhones, trying to text with arthritic thumbs.

The Gray Spotlight

The new hot topic is the elderly. Everyone is studying us. There must be an Aging Czar who oversees those Death Panels.

Recently the U.S. Census Bureau came out with a study.

In a nutshell, here’s what it reported: “The average age of the world’s population is increasing at an unprecedented rate. The number of people worldwide 65 and older is estimated at 506 million as of midyear 2008; by 2040, that number will hit 1.3 billion. Thus, in just over 30 years, the proportion of older people will double from 7 percent to 14 percent of the total world population, according to a new report, An Aging World: 2008 [PDF].”

In just over 30 years? Hell, I’ll be 95+. Or not.

The Expectation and Reality Gap

The Pew Research Center has done studies. In one, they polled young and old Americans to find out what Growing Old in America is all about. Guess what: They found out it’s both not bad AND it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Guess what else: There’s a generation gap – not a GAP store -- in the beliefs of the younger respondents versus the older respondents. Duuuuhhh.

Pollers looked at negative aging benchmarks like illness, memory loss, having your car keys taken away, sex drying up, being lonely and depressed, and poverty. The young respondents said, “yeh, it’s got to be that bad.” The elderly said, “nah, it’s just not as bad as all that.”

Then who are the Viagra ads aimed at? Just who is falling and can’t get up? Whose Medicare is paying for the “scooter” to be used around the house?

Then pollers looked at positive aging benefits like spending more time with family, traveling more for pleasure, having more time for hobbies, doing volunteer work or starting a second career.

Last I heard, families cause stress, no one I know goes anywhere, you can’t bend over in the garden anymore, and babysitting is not a career.

Respondents 18 to 24 years of age thought old age begins at 60; middle aged people thought more like 70; and old people thought 74 and beyond. Most people I hang out with think it begins at 85 or so. Maybe 90.

Sixty percent of those 65 and older think that they feel younger than their age. Mostly, they are living in the past.

Right now 13 percent of Americans are 65 and older, says Pew. That number will become one in five by 2050. I’ll be about 114. Or not.

One major thing is missing from the lives of those 65 and older, but even that is changing: Twitter, Facebook, eBay, and Amazon! Only four in ten are into newfangled technology. I guess that means that HD television isn’t newfangled anymore, because I see a lot of old geezers watching golf and football, reality shows and soap operas.

I’ve decided to do a poll. Here are the questions:

1. Have your rotten kids taken your keys away yet?

2. Have you been dumped into a 1950s-like nursing home or Cuckoo’s nest mental institution?

3. Can your kids tell the difference between you drunk and you on your prescription medicines?

4. Do you remember what sex is?

5. Is babysitting your second career?

6. Have you fallen and couldn’t get up yet?

7. When does old age begin?

8. Have you laughed so hard you wet your pants?

9. Have you been to your 50th elementary school reunion?

10. What the hell does and 18- to 24-year-old know?????

And finally. . .

11. Do you REALLY think you can dance? If so WHAT are you thinking???

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