Tag Archives: grandparents

Can Wendy Whiner Change Her Ways?

 

I take great pride in my ability to worry. To dread events that have or have not (yet) happened. But unnamed others in my personal sphere have a different view:

As in their comments that I may occasionally resemble one of the following:

  • “Wendy Whiner” (SEE: the sketch character by that name on “Saturday Night Live” in the early 1980’s.)
  • “Debbie Downer” (SEE: due to my hyper-knowledge of every local, regional and world crisis or catastrophe, personal or public.)

At this particular moment in time – I have few active complaints. Everyone in my life is relatively o.k.

Which is in and of itself problematic.

Because of my profound skill in Anticipatory Worrying, I recognize the temporary nature of this present lull.  Soon enough the phone will ring or a text will ping and unpleasant, painful, and/or possibly horrific news will arrive.

Change is inevitable as we get older – a subject near and dear to my now-Medicare-aged heart.

But my position on how to handle sad news may be more malleable than I thought.

The Carolyn Hax advice column in today’s Washington Post contained a reader entry that made me reflect on the Wendy Whiner label.

(Pause here to note the path not taken. I should have become an advice columnist instead of a lawyer. I LOVE giving advice. Solicited or not.)

A reader of the Hax column, known as C., wrote in to give advice on “Losses and Dread” (two of my favorite subjects!) C. explained that she has had a wonderful, devoted friend for over 35 years who “truly understands how to sustain and nurture friendships.”  Because C.’s friend has many other close friends and family, C. felt that she couldn’t be as much of a source of comfort to her friend as her friend has always been to her.

This hit home to me. I, too, have a wonderful, devoted friend who also has a million (slight exaggeration only) other wonderful, devoted friends, all of whom jump up to help her whenever she is in need. I am part of the larger circle, always wishing I could be of more support.

It occurred to me that this kind of imbalance is probably quite common. Some of us are the center of the wheel of friendship and others are pinned to the outer spokes – and always will be.

C. goes on to suggest that one way to be a true friend is NOT to share your problems.

Imagine that.

C.’s tells us that her mother and her wonderful, devoted friend’s mother were the same age. Then C.’s mother died. But C. decided not to burden her friend with her sadness at the death of her mother. C. explains it better than I can.

So what I can do is NOT call her when I am sad – though I know she’d be there for me – and  I cannot dwell too heavily on the loss when we do talk. Instead I can ask her about her grandchildren and let her tell me about their antics, though I’m not a kid person. Time and circumstances will bring us to a common reference point on the loss of a beloved mother…The chance to spare my friend from going to this sad place any earlier and more frequently than absolutely necessary is a blessing.”

Kind of a friendship gift, don’t you think? To NOT bring all our woes to our close friends even when we really, really, really want to.

And the part that got me the most? From C. again:

“Sometimes our losses – or health or parents or jobs – scare our friends, and they just want to live their regular lives and not think about it – or catch it.”

O.K., so C. and I differ in several important aspects. I’m a grandmother and very much a kid person. Not all my friends have achieved this most wonderful phase of life so I try (honest I do) not to overshare adorable photos and tales of their toddler brilliance.

I am also not as selfless as C. I haven’t (yet?) reached the point where I can regularly keep my mouth closed and not burden my friends with my woes. I am too dependent on having friends to listen and offer support.

Perhaps the next stage of getting older is to recognize, as C. does, that grief shared may multiply it unnecessarily.

I always want to be there for my friends when they reach out  – and I think I am. But maybe I don’t need to add my sorrows to ones they have not (yet?) experienced. Losses are inevitable. Keeping afloat above them is not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Aging Parents, Communications, Female Friends, friendship, Relationships, Women, Women's Health

“Nina” – not “Nana” – and I’m Fine With That

FullSizeRender (5)

 

The most eventful thing that happened to me last week didn’t happen to me. It happened to our daughter and our son-in-law. She had a baby – which for those of you who are counting know is her second child. Which means I am a grandmother 2x.

How did this happen?

Well, I know how it happened technically  – and that intimate part is thankfully between our daughter and her husband. But exactly how did time pass to this point – where I am supposed to be able to somehow casually admit, oh yes, I’m a grandmother, that part I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around.

While I adore the two little guys, I stumble over the word “grandmother” – and all it implies as an image to others.

Earlier today I had to fill in a form that called for you to check off your occupation. I hesitated. No, I’m not a “Lawyer” anymore (but wait, once a lawyer, always a lawyer?). I couldn’t exactly check the box for “Homemaker” either – though my hard-working husband would be most happy if he arrived home at night to find me cooking his dinner more often than I do. The box for “Retired”, forget it. I’m adamant in thinking of myself as semi-retired.  And the form did not contain a box for “semi-retired.”

Neither did the form have an occupation box called “grandmother.” If it had, I probably could not have brought myself to check that one either.

Why am I so afraid of the labels that imply aging when they are factually correct?

I think back to my own grandmothers, both of whom I was lucky enough to know, and up come images of printed dresses,  papery, wrinkled cheeks to kiss and being enveloped wafts of strong perfume. My sister and I would visit them in their respective apartments, filled with figurines, memorabilia and the latest TV Guide magazines. We took them out to dinner on Sunday nights for Chinese food, then considered a rare treat.  The more stylish (fresh lipstick always) of our grandmothers had six grandchildren; the more comfy of the two had twelve.

They were the classic grandmother types. I’m not in that mold, I like to think.

I catch myself consciously practicing to be the “young” grandmother type.  Our older grandson calls me “Nina.” A variant on my first name, Nancy and the word “Nana”. He picked the name on his own – and to my ears, “Nina” sounds youthful and hip. It goes along with my getting down on the floor to build Lego towers, stretching play dough into colorful ropes and taking walks to the playground to go on the slide.

Were my grandmothers ever the “Nina” type?

In my memories they sat on couches or in heavily upholstered chairs; they never crouched on wood floors to stack blocks or line up trucks in a row.  Did they read to us when we were little or mostly pinch our cheeks and then make soup? They certainly didn’t drape themselves in blankets and create pretend forts.

So therefore I cannot really be a grandmother because I don’t act or look like the grandmothers I once knew.

I am a “Nina” instead. And I’m not alone in this – wanting to be perceived as the youthful g-ma type. A friend of mine who has two grandchildren likes to be called “Mimi” and another has her three grandchildren call her “Gigi”.

Likely we fool no one with these young-ish sounding names. But somehow they make us feel better that we haven’t morphed into our parents’ parents generation.

The photos we post on Facebook (with permission of our adult children, of course) show us being active grandparents. Look at us, how energetic and playful we are. Hardly grandmotherly at all, we say to the world.

At a meeting last night, a friend came up to me to offer congratulations (although as noted above, I had nothing to do with it) on our daughter’s new baby. The friend hugged me, then pulled away to look at me –  assessing my appearance.  Non-Mom jeans, a dark cardigan sweater, stylish (I think) short black boots.

“You look pretty good for a grandmother,” she said.

“Thanks.”

I guess it was meant as a compliment.  Maybe my friend is also recollecting her own black and white photos of an apron-wearing grandmother at the stove.

25 years from now will my two grandsons look at old photos of me (assuming they make it into print and aren’t forever trapped inside an iPhone) –  and think how stodgy and old-fashioned their “Nina” looked way back then? And yet we called her “Nina” – wasn’t she fun, I hope they will say.

How she loved being with us, singing silly songs and playing on the floor. Just like “Ninas” are supposed to be.

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under 1st Grandchild, Adult Kids, Aging, Baby Boomers, daughters, Empty Nest, Family, Female Friends, Parenting, Retirement, Semi-Retired, Women