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She knew what she was talking about

When I was in my early 20’s and my Grandmother was still alive, she tried to impart her best advice to me.

It’s too bad I was scornful. But that’s mostly because she was very old and extremely proper and exceedingly capable. In other words, we were nothing alike (though she was my favourite person in the whole world)

I wish she was still alive because back then she was talking about stuff that didn’t at all apply to my crazy, 20-something, hard-livin lifestyle.  But now as I go about my day, I can’t tell you how many time, I stop, slap my forehead and say, “So that’s what she meant.”

I remember one Sunday dinner, when I was around 12.

I tried to help my grandmother as she bustled around in the kitchen, cooking a stuffed chicken, baking homemade rolls, setting the table and prepping dessert. While, my grandpa, her husband, sat on the sofa reading the Globe and Mail. Like he did every Sunday. In that same tradition, he’d frequently shout from the living room: “Dinner ready yet?”

Grandma turned to me and said, “Never get married.”

Later she amended that advice to – “Only marry someone who’ll divorce well.”  

Now that so many of my friends are separating from their husbands and life partners, I understand that advice to mean: “if your chosen mate shows a hint of vindictiveness – use him for sex – but never, ever marry him.”  Watching how shitty people can behave when divorcing, I believe that unsolicited advice is absolute genius. I will impart it to my daughter…but only after college.

She said a whole bunch of super intelligent shit – most of which I remember. When I repeat these little sound bites with anyone in her 40’s or older – I sound super wise and insightful. (thanks, Grandma. I couldn’t have done it without you.)

Here are some of my most repeated examples:

  • Poor people can’t afford cheap stuff
  • Three things you should never cheap out on:
    • Food, shoes and mattress.  (She once said in way of a caution: “Every time my mattress started to sag in the middle, I got pregnant.”)
  • A lady always knows when it’s time to go (If only I’d taken this advice after drinking
  • A wise woman always knows when to keep her mouth shut (if only I’d EVER taken this advice)
  • Gardening is the best stress reliever – nothing beats unmercifully pulling weeds, for working out aggression
  • Money is never a reason not to do something important (so when I use that excuse I know I’m really freaked out about something else)old-woman-in-hospital

A few years ago, I volunteered at Hospice. Sylvia MacNeil asked me to write her life story. She was 94 and dying from breast cancer. I won’t go into the details except to say that her life was inspiring and remarkable. I felt very lucky to have known her.

 As Sylvia got closer to death, I could sense she had something she wanted to tell me. One day, when she was drifting in and out of consciousness, he waved me into close so I could hear her hoarse whisper. She said, “Sex in your 80’s kicks the crap  out of sex in your 30’s.” And then she fell back on her pillow, unresponsive.


Photo credit: Jean Malek

If it hadn’t been for the nurse in the room, I would have grabbed Sylvia by the shoulders and shaken her awake, yelling. “What do you mean? For God’s sake. How? How?”

But I’ll never know exactly what she meant.

Although, after some thought, I think she was talking about gumming.

What good advice were you given that you’re only really getting now?

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