These Are The Good Ole’ Days

Last week, my kids were discussing a friend’s new romance and the couple’s substantial age difference.  The girl is in her twenties, and the man is over forty.  My son said, “He even looks older than you, Mom.”

“Thanks.”

He hastened to explain by saying, “I mean, I know how old you are, and he looks older than that.”

Again, thanks.

The conversation reminded me of how old forty seemed when I was in my twenties.  I thought about how quickly I’d arrived at an age that not long ago seemed so old.

A few days later, I drove to Atlanta to spend some time with my Granddad, who’s nearly ninety-one.  During my drive, I contemplated how old ninety seems and how, if I get there, I’ll most likely be shocked at how fast that happened. I even wondered how I’ll feel about my age when I’m closing in on the century mark.

I know how my granddad feels about his age.  “I never thought I’d live this long after Glennis died,” he said to me on the first evening I spent with him.  “I really don’t know why the Lord’s keeping me here.”  He was sitting in his favorite chair, an orange corduroy lounger that he bought about the time I graduated from high school.  His feet were propped up on a TV tray table to keep fluid from collecting in his legs, and he had a space heater on either side of him.  We were watching reruns of The Waltons, the classic show set during the years my grandfather was a child and young adolescent.

My kids, by contrast, are in a hurry to get just a little bit older.  They don’t want to be as old as I am, of course, but they all express an eagerness to get out of college and get on with their lives.  I remember having those feelings, of thinking that my life would really begin when I got out of high school.  Then it was when I graduated from college, which changed to when I got married.  Looking back, I’m pretty sure life started for me when all of my kids were potty trained.

The next morning, I woke at seven and walked into a smoky kitchen.  I was alarmed at first, but then I remembered The Great Gravy Debate.  I remember my grandparents arguing the merits of Smith gravy versus Adams gravy.  As long as Grandmom was alive, her family’s recipe for gravy won out.  But now that she’s gone, the darker, slightly charred-tasting Adams gravy reigns supreme in Granddad Adams’s house.  Adams gravy requires frying sausage patties on high heat.  Once again, Granddad had everything under control.

But I was also concerned that he was even frying sausage because ten days’ earlier, I had ordered a VIP Gift Package from the Dillard House in North Georgia for him.  Why wasn’t he frying the bacon or country ham I’d sent.  My mom’s mom had called me to say she’d received hers, so I asked Granddad if he’d gotten a package.

“No,” he said, cracking a couple of eggs into the skillet.

“Then I’m going to light them up.”  I pulled out my iPhone and sent a quick email to Dillard House customer service asking them to check on my order.

We sat down to eat, and he said the blessing.  Then he looked at me kind of funny and said, “I wonder if it got delivered to the front porch.”

Granddad’s front porch is hidden from the street by a hedge of boxwoods that stand about four feet high.  He enters and exits the house from the side door, so unless he’s looking for a package, he would never know if one had been delivered.

He stood up from the breakfast table, grabbed his walker, and made his way to the front door.  I opened the blind covering the kitchen window and, looking to my left, saw two packages.

He was still struggling with the front door, so I stepped in to help.  I pushed and pulled on the door, trying to turn the key stuck in the deadbolt lock, but I couldn’t budge it.  Granddad took over again and finally managed to get the door open.  I dragged the packages inside.  He pulled out his pocketknife and opened a Styrofoam container with four Omaha steaks.  The dry ice in the container was melted, and the steaks had thawed after a couple of sixty-degree December afternoons in Georgia.  But Granddad laughed when I suggested they should be thrown out.  “Naw, they’re still good,” he said.

I sent a second email to the Dillard House apologizing for my mistake while he unpacked the VIP Gift basket.  The package was bigger than I’d expected it would be, and after breakfast, as we stood in his kitchen slicing that 16-pound country ham, Granddad asked me why I would send a person who lived alone a ham that size.

When we were finished, he held up the bone and said, “If my mama were here, she’d save this to cook with.”  I asked him if he wanted me to put it in the freezer for him to use for soup.  He chuckled and said, “No.”

It reminded me of all the times over the years when he would hear someone reminiscing about the past. Granddad would always stop the conversation by saying, “I remember ‘The Good Ole’ Days,’ and they weren’t so good.  Now is better.”

Most likely, he didn’t want that hambone because it reminded him of the way people ate during the Great Depression.  He’s not much interested in the past, I guess. Plus, he had four fine Omaha steaks in his freezer.

I thought about how we spend our lives looking back or looking ahead while, the whole time, we’re completely unaware of the treasure that’s already been delivered.  All we have to do is open the door.

And I think we open the door when we remember that now is always better.

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