96 Years

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My grandma is 96 years old.

Having recently moved in with my mom, she’s gone through quite a transition in the past couple of months, reluctantly losing her grip on the independence she’s felt since she was 14. She no longer lives in her little apartment in Claremont, with her flower-print couch, and her walnut cracker, or the green, carpet staircase that has worn in the middle from the numerous decades spent walking up and down.

It’s apparent she views my mom’s house as her last little stretch of life, and has suitably been nostalgic for her youth. Consequently, she has shared many stories of her life with me while I’ve been home for the holidays, and being around has led to many glimpses of her treasured past.

She reminisces on her youth very fondly and tells me that back in her day, “life was different then— there were not as many fears as there are now.”

There’s no doubt life is different than it was almost a hundred years ago. In some ways it’s better and in some ways it’s worse, however, it’s humbling to hear her speak of the progression of eras.

Talking to my grandma is like poking the little bricks in the video game, Super Mario. The more I prod, the more gold that spews. Each word my grandmother says these days, feels like one of the little gold coins that I must frantically run to catch.

She’s shared about her first job during the depression, picking cherries, and how she loved her independence. She shares about watching window-show dance marathons, where people would dance until they literally could not anymore, in hopes of winning a monetary prize. She’s talked about the prohibition era, and the ladies who were flappers. She’s also shared about skinny dipping where she shouldn’t, taking walks in the mountains, and even cooking for her ten children.

“It’s really all come down to the interesting people I’ve met along the way,” she repeats after almost every story she shares. The common thread among all her stories are about the people she’s met because of them.

“I’ve met more good people, than not good people, but you’ve gotta learn how to live with everybody,” she says. She is a constant example of how important it is to know how to listen and says there’s not a street in the world where somebody doesn’t have a story to share.

I’m not too sure how much longer she’s got here, but despite the uncertainty of tomorrow, she doesn’t stop making friends. She goes on a long walk every single day, and sees every walk as an opportunity to make friends and to listen to people’s stories. She reminds me to stay interactive with all I encounter.

It’s easy to not spark up a conversation, it’s easy to mind your own business, or to look down at your phone. However, it’s also easy to say hi, ask someone about their day, or compliment an outfit. Going out of the way to listen can be so rewarding, and I hope that by the time I am 96 years old (if I ever make it that long), I will have heard as many stories as she has, and to have as many stories to tell as she does.

Thank you, grandma, for the little gold coins you’ve spewed throughout this past week. They add value to the stories I am currently making. 


  1. Jenna, this is very well written and I am happy and thankful that you have shared this with all who read this. We are all very lucky to have her in our lives. She is truly an amazing person. Her patience and understanding and capacity for forgiveness have taught me how to be a better person. I send my love to all of you. .Brian Goldfield.


  2. Just showed this to grandma…She’s in tears right now. You did a lovely write up on this very special woman. Thank you.


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