I'm turning 33 next month, and each year I look back at where I've been, how I've felt, how I've grown. When you get older things get taken from you, at least according to Al Pacino they do. In return for the things that are taken from you something replaces them: wisdom, perspective, experience, maybe all of them.
I had the chance (I call it an honor) to be able to get time off from work, fly down to Florida, and drive my Nana back to New Hampshire. She's almost 81. At first glance from outsiders, it sounds like a punishment, but I was more than happy. I knew what I was getting into. I did it last year with my sister and we had a blast but this year was different - this year it was just her and I. The word that comes to mind to describe it - selfish. I'm selfish, I admit it. I wanted time with my Nana. I wanted a trip to remember forever. I wanted her one on one for almost 1600 miles. I wanted her perspective on everything, and not just in short measured bursts, I wanted it when she wasn't even thinking about it. When you drive with someone for 1600 miles you let your guard down, it's inevitable. I learned a lot about my Nana, a lot about life, a lot about getting older, a lot about the growth of a person.
Some highlights that need sharing:
- Even at 80 years old, it's never too old to try new food. Nana tried guacamole and a Maple Bacon Milkshake from Denny's. Not at the same meal, but she kept an open mind. And she loved both.
- Even though she spent the majority of her life with her soulmate, someone she was married to for 56 years, someone she knew in and out, she's still learning about herself. Nana isn't someone that just wants to sit idly by and paint in a nursing home and have her grandkids and children to come visit her. She's up at dawn and moving and grooving. She remembers what day it is by what show is on. She watches Jeopardy nightly and slays it. She has a sharp mind, but sharper tongue. That's something I think everyone should take a lesson from.
- She has an everlasting love to speak to random strangers and connect with people. She realizes most people think she is crazy when she walks up to them out of the blue and says something nice to them or asks them a random question, but she doesn't care. If there is one thing about Nana it's she does not care what anyone thinks abotu her, period. She has no issues looking foolish. Life is fun for her, and she doesn't let anything get in the way of that.
- People vastly misunderstand older people. In the 2 days I was in Florida, I met and spoke with about 10-12 of her friends, all in their 80s and 90s, and all of them were the most fascinating people I've ever met. I would have killed to spend a summer with them, soaking in their life experiences, their lessons. It sounds cheesy, but when someone talks to you about being in a World War, and how they dealt with adversity, you sit back and you listen. You shut your phone off and shut the world out and just hope to hear as many stories as you can.
- Older people are ninjas. They're quicker, they're smarter, they're super sleek. They know it, but they don't want you to know it. They've seen so much more than you have, they may not know everything but dammit they know more than enough, and they are always watching and listening. They are masters of body language, they can read people like nobody's business.
I don't tend to take vacations. I'll take a day here and there throughout the year, and I take a week in August to take part in an amazing AIDS charity bike ride, but that's a very hard week and there is very little rest. Very fulfilling but it's exhausting at the end. That's the same with Operation: Nana Extraction. I wouldn't miss it for the world. I'd trade all my other vacation days for a week at the end of April or May to get Nana, and a week in August to spend with my August Family.
As I get older I realize that Al Pacino was absolutely right - things do get taken from us. But if you work it right, they're replaced with things that are even better.