Aging is one of those things that has always perplexed me. I remember asking my grandmother about dying… Won’t you feel SAD to die? (sensitive child that I was!) She said that as they grew older, people felt differently about dying and might even look forward to it. Not sure that she wasn’t just clicking her false teeth on that one. I have pocketed my AARP card and I never miss a chance to take advantage of a seniors discount, but saving a buck on a movie does not make me think, “Well, I’ve had it all now. I’m ready to go.” There is, however, one plus of aging that IS worth it: is the arrival of grandchildren.
I wanted the grandkids to call me something that wasn’t likely to make me sound over-the-hill or might later morph into something ancient sounding. It’s not that easy! For instance, my most regal great-grandmother was called Old Nannie, since Nannie was reserved for our grandmother. Oh, the insult! I had friends who differentiated their maternal and paternal grandmothers as Little Mammy and Big Mammy. Horrors! No matter how cute, the first kid who calls me Big Mammy should not waste time waiting for a Christmas gift from Old Lardbutt here.
So we came up with a name and the first two grandsons called me Grandmary. Pretty clever, I thought. So just what were the odds that our second daughter would marry a guy whose mother was also Mary?! Luckily, since I had attained seniority in the Grandmary spot, Mary II ended up as Grandmama. She’s no rocking chair granny though.. she plays tag and even rides scooters with the little guys. Maybe they should call her Whizzer. (I call her Showoff!)
As for our sons-in-law, they have a tough time with what to call me. (I remember my husband struggling, unsuccessfully, to get Gladys out when addressing my mother. ) Our older son-in-law manages to call me Mary now without much difficulty. The other daughter’s spouse (that would be Mary II’s son) tries to slip by with “Grandmary” sometimes, but I think I can disabuse Junior (I’m not afraid to use it!) of that over time. Our new daughter-in-law. . . oh, she tries to get Mary out, but it’s difficult for her. Perhaps she’ll come up with something else on her own. As long as it doesn’t have Grand-, Old, or Big- in front of it, I’m pretty flexible. I wouldn’t mind if any of them called me mom, but I dare not suggest it. Mother Superior has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
As for my own mother-in-law, her other sons’ wives (yes, they have come and gone and been replaced) have all called her Mrs., but I’ve never had a problem with “Sylvia” and she hasn’t seemed to mind. She calls me MAYree. She still changes her mind sometimes about what she wants to be called by the grands and great grands. Never mind that distance separates them so much that she rarely sees them–she wants that envelope with the pictures addressed correctly! Her first grandchild called her Meemaw, which she found cute for awhile, but later it became the quite formal Grandmother. To our children she has been Grandma and I think that’s still acceptable for them, but definitely not for the great-grands. She said she didn’t want them to confuse her with someone else. AS IF they’d think the 90-pound woman with the walker might engage in a scooter race. Currently, GiGi is her chosen moniker of choice. (That’s GreatGrandmother shorthand, supposedly.)
When our oldest grandson was just learning to talk, he and his parents were visiting us when his mother proclaimed it was his bedtime. He jumped up from his toys and came toddling into the kitchen, crying as he ran: “MEHwy, MEHwy, hep! hep! ” Nine years later, I still recall that moment with a smile. I wanted to insist he be allowed to stay awake all night, just to let him know that I’d always try to come through for him.
Our youngest grandson is still wrestling with a name for me. “Grandmary” is a lot for a tot to contend with. Not to worry. Anything short of Lardbutt is okay with me, Sweetie Pie!