Wrinkles. I remember looking up at her so carefully and seeing every laugh line and crinkle around her eyes from all the smiling that she did. Taking a step back I took in her cheekbones (Cherokee cheekbones so sharp they could probably cut you) and her hands (Not ‘pretty’ hands- working hands). She had a quick wit and a work ethic that I still to this day find more impressive than that of any of the women found on Forbes list.
She was my mother’s mother and one of my best friends. Anything about gardening, praying, or poker, I learned from that woman. Looking back now on my childhood and recent years, I had a lot of lovely older friends. Not older as in they were in the sixth grade when I was in the third grade. Older as in they were well into their retirement when I met them.
These friendships were not the kind of friendships that involved constant communication or inside jokes. None of our conversations revolved around gossip, boys, or Kimye and I preferred it that way. Drinking iced tea and listening to my dear old friends talk about growing up (what they wore, their moral compasses, school dances), love (courting, love letters, mad money, manners, marriage), music (The Rat Pack, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn), and life (building homes, babies, day jobs, third shift, bills, work, work, work) made for the best afternoons.
Their stories were told in vivid detail with witty commentary and grandiose hand gestures. Their eyebrows moved up in down for emphasis in a way that you could tell they’d been doing since they were young. Their eyes would crinkle up into a smile when they knew that they had just said something feisty. Everything about the stories was so animated and the lines on their faces and veins on their hands mapped out just how exciting their lives had been in the most beautiful way.
Some of my favorite stories that I have heard from these friends were about their scars. One scar earned fighting for our country in Vietnam (he remains a decorated officer); one earned while jumping a fence to get into a concert (Two tetanus shots followed. The show was reportedly well worth it.); that scar from scraping her knee on an oil can (because oil came in cans back then, not cheap plastic bottles); this scar earned from being thrown from and kicked by a horse; and on and on.
Growing up in a society that says that everyone needs to look airbrushed and have it together at all times it is so refreshing to be around people that are willing to be raw and honest. These friends are honest about their struggles and mistakes in life (small or major), and wear their scars and physical imperfections as badges of courage and signs of a life well lived.
And let’s face it, that is what they are.
I think that everyone who falls into the twenty-something age range could take cues from those who came a few generations before us. Be smart about money, travel often, hold hands, dance around the kitchen, laugh- laugh a lot, use your manners, educate yourself, and recognize fully and deeply that the world has several other inhabitants besides just y-o-u.*
As for me, I will continue to keep my friendships with my dear old friends. I also hereby vow to go out and let myself live life in the most wholehearted and hands-on way so that someday I will have wrinkles, badges of courage, and plenty of stories to tell from a life well lived.
*These co-inhabitants that I have referenced include those who we should think about taking these social cues from. Call your grandma and tell her that you love her. Say hi to the older gentleman that lives in the apartment next door. Ask the woman sitting next to you on the bus how her day is going. It’s going to take ten minutes of your day, but I guarantee it will make theirs.