Arrow-right Camera

Washington Voices

Front Porch: ‘Grandma’ moment gets one thinking

Thu., Jan. 30, 2014

So there I was in the grocery store with my 40-year-old son, who was home for the holidays, and the checker, looking at all the snack-type items we were purchasing, cheerily said, “Oh, I see you’re laying in supplies for your grandson.”


While I didn’t clutch my chest and stagger backwards into the rack of chewing gum and candy, apparently I did twitch a little or maybe suck in air a bit sharply, as the checker hastily added “… or your son.”

Too late.

Carl is good at moments like these and popped up with, “Well, obviously I look a whole lot younger than I am. Thanks for the good genes, Mom.” We laughed, the checker was put at ease and my son called me Grandma for the rest of the day.

Now, I’ve never lamented getting older. I have friends who bemoan the marching on of the years. They approach each birthday with dread. I don’t get that. I see each birthday as an occasion for dancing, a milestone a lot of people never get to, a planting of the flag each step of the way along the steep climb. Hooray, I get to be old!

Sure, it would be nice to be more limber, to not have to scour memory banks on a regular basis trying to pull forth a fact recently filed there or to have personally relevant discussions about the latest in birth control rather than knee replacement – but, hey, there’s a price for everything, including longevity.

But still, that grocery store moment lingers. To do the arithmetic, with Carl being 40, in order for me to be his grandmother, I’d pretty well have to be in my 80s now. I just turned 68. Some of us look older than our years, some younger. I’ve always thought I looked just about right where I am agewise, but I decided to give the mirror a long, hard look to see if I’ve been kidding myself.

Upon focused and steady examination, my eyebrows are indeed a little droopier than I remembered. There are three creases on my brow. Some dappling on my chin. The rest of the face still pretty smooth.

It’s true that I don’t wear makeup, and one friend has suggested that a little lipstick or maybe eyeliner might take off a few years. I don’t fuss much with my hair as the cowlicks pretty much do what they want to do, and what they want to do changes daily, mostly influenced by the humidity. I no longer fight it.

While it’s hard to be objective, what I see staring back at me is the face of a woman creeping up on 70, and I’m good with that. What the checker said was no doubt just one of those offhand things of no real consequence.

Still, as I’ve been trying to figure out why this casual comment has stayed with me, I’ve allowed myself to wander into that place where I don’t go very often. And here it is – I would have liked actually to have been a grandmother to someone – or more properly stated, I would have liked to have had grandchildren. And the last – I mean the very last – thing my sons should do is father or adopt a child just so I can have someone call me Grandma. And I mean that to the bottom of my soul.

But there is still that little internal sigh when I see how children light up the lives of their grandparents. I’m pretty much a glass-half-full kind of person, with a life and family that I love. But I do wonder how a grandchild might have added to that nearly full glass, and what I might have brought to his or her life. Frankly, it’s probably a big over-reach to connect the dots between this and the grocery store moment, and I need to stop over-thinking this. Let it go, Stefanie.

So if what happened in the checkout line was just an awkward conversational moment, that’s fine. If it was because I look a lot older than I think I do – well, I still embrace getting old. It beats the alternative. And if it somehow really does connect to that empty grandbaby place in my heart, I’m pretty sure I can get over it. I’ve got the very of best sons, and my heart is full with them.

Besides, if I really need someone to call me Grandma, I can probably work something out with a certain checker at the grocery store.

Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at upwindsailor@ Previous columns are available at columnists.

Click here to comment on this story »