There’s Never A Wish Better Than This

by Susan Pogorzelski on August 10, 2009 · 14 comments

15 there’s still time for you,
22 I feel her too,
33 you’re on your way,
Every day’s a new day…
There’s never a wish better than this
When you only got 100 years to live…

Five for Fighting, “100 Years”

fieldofclocksbyshashamane

My grandma came over to visit one afternoon a couple of weeks ago as I was sitting on the deck with the dogs, getting some writing done. She sat down next to me and started talking, and I half-listened as I formatted and edited and wondered if there was a suitable synonym for “remember.”

But then things changed as I looked up and began to really listen. Soon, I began to understand what she was saying beneath the story she was telling.

She was lonely.

She was bored.

She longed for life but was afraid to live it, afraid to start over without my grandfather.

She was afraid for what the future might mean with all of it’s uncertainty.

I started thinking about this — thinking how we’re so different but that, in many ways, despite the sixty-plus years between us, we’re very much the same.

I have a confession to make. I always wanted to be 30. I know, some people dread it, but I always thought it was the perfect age for what it should mean. By this time — theoretically — you would have kids and a house and a job and you would be settled and happy and financially sound. You would finally be the adult you always imagined yourself to be.

My grandma echoed these thoughts to me as she said that she wanted to see me happy, wanted to see me married with kids and house and career that I loved. And while it still sounds nice and more settled than where I am now, I realized that I didn’t necessarily want that for myself. At least, not quite yet.

Because I think I’ve also begun to realize that life doesn’t come in a nice little package like that, no matter how much you may want it to.

Life isn’t necessarily sequential, as we may want to believe. Yes, there are milestones — graduation, career, marriage, house, kids, retirement. But there are the little moments in between all of that that lead to those milestones, the steps it takes to walk that journey. There are struggles and trials and little successes and achievements along the way that build up to a full life. And there are things we experience that we can’t ever expect.

I see that from my grandmother. Ever since we lost my grandpa, she’s become a woman I sometimes don’t recognize. Suddenly, she’s struggling to navigate the world again on her own, unsettled, uncertain, longing for a time when things were easier, more simple, trying to find stability in chaos. She wants to do things, but is afraid and unsure of how to do them. A life she had planned out has been uprooted.

It all sounds too familiar.

I listened as we sat for more than an hour, as she shared stories of her life. And as I watched her, I couldn’t help but think: here we are, generations apart — one in her mid-twenties, one in her late-eighties, a lifetime lingering between us — yet both in a similar place. She, having experienced, grown, changed, seen, met, felt it all. Me, barely begun, and yet eager to experience, grow, change, see, meet, feel it all.

We’re so different for all that we have and haven’t done. And yet we’re still there, in that same place — a place of uncertainty and a bit of fear and loneliness and confusion.

It’s a connection that I can’t quite explain, but it’s there, lingering below the surface, hidden by a difference in age and experience. But maybe those differences aren’t so great, after all.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Grace Boyle August 10, 2009

This is a beautiful post. I absolutely love spending time with my Grandparents. I only have one set as my father’s parents died when he was younger, before he even had kids.

I know you say it’s an ineffable connection that you can’t quite explain, but I understand what you’re saying. Generations and years apart, but still bound by uncertainty and a zest to want more. I believe these moments are precious and maybe even one talk that you will remember for the rest of your life. Even if she wasn’t offering advice, it seems as though you learned and gained something. Just from sitting, listening and reflecting. It’s a great process and times that are few and far between.

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Tom August 10, 2009

Thank you for this, Susan. It is a beautiful post. I think it’s important to realize that the path you take is never quite the one you envision, but it’s always the one you need. As far as I’ve seen, anyway. :)

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Sam August 11, 2009

I love that this interaction led you to realize just how much you and your grandmother have in common. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in generational identity that we forget how much we can learn from other generations.

Like Grace, this post makes me think of my own grandparents. My dad’s mom and I were never particularly close. We had a very nice grandma/granddaughter relationship, but even as I got older, I never really felt like I knew her beyond that bond. For the last few years of her life, she was a widow, and I saw in her a strength that I never knew she had. She was sad at first, but instead of retreating into that sadness, she decided to live her life. She spent time with friends, got more involved at her synagogue, and pursued hobbies. I was really proud of her, and I enjoyed seeing this side of her.

It’s interesting that we both found ourselves relating to our grandmas at similar times in their lives, even though they reacted quite differently to the uncertainty. I was younger when this happened, so my grandma set an example for me. But, I think maybe this is an opportunity for you to set an example for your grandma. You’re both at a crossroads, maybe if you take the path less traveled to a new adventure, she’ll be motivated to do the same. Beautiful post, thanks for sharing this story!

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Benjamin Wilcox August 11, 2009

I love this post, the fact that you had so many things in common with your grandmother is amazing. Like Sam is saying, I think we lose a lot of great knowledge and connection with older generations just because they might not know exactly how email works. My grandfather knows more about woodworking and construction that I could learn in a lifetime. I enjoyed working with him for a week this summer at my aunt’s house and was able to connect more with him over that week than I have ever before. This is great insight and an awesome memory you will keep about your grandmother for the rest of your life.

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Positively Present August 12, 2009

What a wonderful post. I’m really glad I came across your site and read this. It’s beautifully written and I love the lyrics you’ve included at the top. I haven’t heard that song in so long and it really is inspiring!

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Elisa August 12, 2009

I turn 30 next May (I know, I’m ancient!) and I most certainly thought my life would be COMPLETELY different at this point. My grandparents all passed away by the time I was 13, so I didn’t really get a chance to share with them like you did with your grandmother. It’s amazing the way that it is sometimes impossible for us to wrap out mind around the idea that someone 60 years older than us could be struggling with or experienced what we are currently battling with. It’s a great lesson to learn and story to share. Thank you for doing that!

The best piece of “wisdom” I’ve gotten to pass down as an “elder” of the Gen Y community is this: The harder you try to cling to things and control them and make them work the way you want them to the faster they slip through your fingers. It’s like trying to hold water in your hands…you do pretty well if you are perfectly still and silent, but the moment you move/talk/act the water all starts spilling and leaking out. So you either accept it or try to save the leaking water. Which inevitably leads to lots and lots more spilled water!

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cari August 14, 2009

i wish i had a relationship like that with my grandma. but we don’t really talk. not like that anyway. it’s hard with me being so busy to find time to visit or even to call every once in a while. sometimes i feel like that makes me a bad grandchild and then i remember, that’s just who i am. i can’t keep up with everyone all the time. so i simply cherish the times i do get to see them, with all sorts of other family members around, of course. maybe someday i’ll get to have a sweet talk like that with gma.

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Susan Pogorzelski - admin August 21, 2009

Thank you, all of your, for your beautiful comments!

Grace: My grandmother is unfortunately the only one left, as my grandfather died five years ago and my grandmother a few years before that. Because of that, I’ve tried to value my time with her; still, it was amazing, and somewhat startling to see, how much we really do have in common. I think we’re so quick to point out the differences in generations, that we tend to forget that, when it comes down to it — to the emotions that we feel and some of the experiences we have — we really are similar. Thanks for your insight, Grace! It’s truly appreciated.

Tom: Thanks so much for the comment! I love how you say “the path you take is never quite the one you envision, but it’s always the one you need.” Love this. So true!

Sam: Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your story here. That’s so wonderful that your grandmother chose that direction, to live her life, even, perhaps, through that grief. I definitely hadn’t thought of myself as setting an example, but I hope that I can do that for her. And I hope that I always remember this. There’s so much we can learn from each other…

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Susan Pogorzelski - admin August 21, 2009

Benjamin: I love that you have those memories and that knowledge from your grandfather, and I think you and Sam are exactly right. There’s so much we can learn from older generations — and not just skill sets, but really how to live. I wonder how much does get lost because we feel we can’t relate to them, because we’re so caught up in technology and we see it as “different worlds…” A lot of great points here, Ben, that really make you think twice. Thanks so much for the great comment and best to you!

Positively Present: Thanks so much for stopping by and for reading! I love that song, too, because it’s so simple, so beautiful, and so true. You think life is supposed to have this great plan, that the stage is set and you need to accomplish these goals by these set years…I love how the lyrics say “there’s still time for you…” I think there’s still time at any age to begin living. Anyway — thanks again!

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Susan Pogorzelski - admin August 21, 2009

Elisa: You are most certainly NOT ancient ;) It’s amazing how many people expected their life to be different. I wonder why that is — I wonder if we aren’t taught to plan our lives out, so that when it does turn out different, we’re surprised at where we end up. As I said in a reply above, it really is remarkable how similar we are — when you take away the number that is our age, we’re really still just people, going through the same struggles, emotions, situations. Maybe on a different level because of experience, but still the same.

I love that piece of advice. It’s something I really need to learn, as I’ve seen it come true. Personally, I do try to plan, to control things and it’s tough for me to let that go. But wonderful things can happen once you do. I’ve seen that, as well. You can’t stand still for long…Life is meant for moving…I think I might be on my way to accepting the fact that some water will leak through. ;) Thanks for the great comment!

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Susan Pogorzelski - admin August 21, 2009

Cari: I understand exactly what you mean because I was in the same situation. My grandparents lived in New York for most of my childhood so the times I got to see them were few and far between — not like my other grandmother who had lived with us. It’s only been in these later years, really college and beyond, that I got to know them and appreciate them. It makes these moments now with my grandmother all the more special.

I think you absolutely do still need to live your own life, but maybe that, too, makes one appreciate those moments that you do have. Because those are special memories in and of themselves. Thanks, Cari!

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