The Wisdom of a Centenarian

So my Grandma died peacefully in her sleep last night. She was going to be 105 in March. A phenomenal length of time to live when you think about it (born in 1910!) and I often wanted to ask her why she chose to keep going – because it was definitely her choice. Maybe she was looking forward to her next grandchild’s wedding, or the birth of her next great grandchild? Then again, she could have been hoping to be around for her first great great grandchild? I don’t know why, but one thing I do know is, it was obviously Grandma Tot that gave me the ‘I-never-want-to-be-first-to-leave-a-party’ gene.

Grandma Tot on her 100th Birthday
Grandma Tot is the only grandparent I ever had. The other three died before I was born. Since Mum called this morning, it’s made me incredibly reflective about her life and the influence she had on me. I expect everyone in my extended family is feeling the same way.

As a kid, she scared the living shit out of me. She used to chase my siblings and I around her impeccably kept garden with a bat, smacking us on the arse for being brats – they were the days. But I also remember the smells of grandma’s house and the tables full of aunts, uncles and squirming grandchildren on Christmas Day. It was chaotic but always a lot of fun.

I remember the day she proudly cooked a bull’s tongue in front of me – ugh – the first and last time I saw that! The old coins in the Christmas Pudding, exchanged for current currency so we could run down to the corner store to buy lollies - score. Her scones with jam and cream were always a welcome delight after driving more than 300KMs to visit – often with us sitting in the back of a hot, sweaty Datsun – definitely appreciated. Cedele hairspray is grandma’s smell. Loudly ticking alarm clocks are grandma’s sound. Playing cards, watching the cricket, her beloved Geelong Cats, tapestry, the BEST homemade pickles… they all belong to Grandma.

She was an incredibly strong and independent lady – she had to be – and was definitely the first matriarch of my life, closely followed by my mother. As my Mum ruled the roost in her own special way, I know she got it from Grandma. Strong, independent women are definitely in my family lineage.

Grandma was born into a time when life was hard, and that heaviness is something I always saw her carry through life. It was such a different generation – especially for women. But I also remember times when she  lit up with joy. I didn’t see this often, because she just wasn’t like that, but I do remember the moments when she giggled like a school girl. Magic.

My Mum, Aunts and Uncle at Totties 100th 
But on this day, when I heard the news of her passing, I went back to the blog I wrote after her 100th b’day and read it again. I asked her for some life advice, and well today, maybe someone new will read it.

So here is Grandma Totties’ life advice for anyone who is interested. 

Q1. What do you think is the meaning of life?
The meaning of life is to keep God in your life because sooner or later we will all have to give an account of our life when we meet God face to face.

Q2. What have you learnt in your 100 + years?
  • To treat people as you would like them to treat you
  • To help the underprivileged - e.g. Totties’ chooks in Mannya that I sponsored and the worming program for the village children, both in Uganda. I have done this sort of thing all through my life
  • To keep up with your religion - please don’t think that I am telling you what to do
  • Save some money for a rainy day so you won’t have to depend on other people in your old age

Q3. If you could give your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren any advice on life, what would you say?
  • Live a good life, don’t take drugs, smoke or abuse alcohol and then you can die with no regrets
  • Always pay your way and don’t rely on credit cards - I have always paid cash for what I want
  • Keep God in your life and remember what you were taught as a child, the world might change but God doesn’t

There’s some good, solid life advice in here, although I think Grandma’s idea of God is very different for many of us today, and I certainly won’t be re-joining the Catholic Church based on the above. However, I’m pretty sure my grandma won’t be disappointed with my idea of religion – and that is to be a good person in the world, doing the right thing by everyone I meet. That’s what religion has come to mean to me.

Grandma’s advice obviously comes from a pre-World War One baby, and when I asked her these questions, I thought it was important to share, because I currently live in a society that values its elders - Asia's good like that. In Australia (and much of the developed world) we forget that our oldies might have something to say that’s worth listening too, so to show respect for an elder, I pass on her advice again today.

Whether you’re facing your God right now Grandma, or just finally resting in peace, I must say, a jolly good innings Tottie. Well done.

Yours, without the bollocks
Andrea




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