Just recently I was curled up on the couch with my three-year-old granddaughter who is a great talker and thinker. More recently she has come to realise I am her mother’s mother. This took a fair while to sink in, but now she says quite confidently “You are mummy’s mummy”. Okay, well yes I am. That led to the next question: “Where are your Mummy and Daddy?”
Oh dear, I thought, how do I explain that? I called a spade a spade, no good lying to children, so I replied that my parents are dead.
“Like those squashed animals on the road?”
“But ‘where’ are they?” she persisted.
“Well, buried in the ground,” I replied. No good telling her my mum was cremated, that would give the poor kid nightmares. Let’s move on, I thought, change the subject to something else, but still she persisted.
“You’re old Nanny. Are you going to die soon?” she said.
“Well”, I replied, “Im not planning on it. I’m not really ‘old old’, but I’m ‘young old’.” That took a while to sink in so I dug myself a deeper pit.
“I’m young old,” I explained. “I’m pretty fit, can still climb trees and over fences. I can dig in the garden and lift things. ‘Middle old’ is when your’e getting a bit creaky and slower to do things, and ‘old old’, well, that is what my mum and dad were when they died. There bodies were all worn out.” Phew! I thought, let’s talk about something else.
There was a fairly short period of silence while she pondered all of these facts, then she asked if we could dig them out of the ground. I was pretty perplexed at how to answer and again, not keen to give the child bad dreams at bedtime, so told her they weren’t really there now.
“But where are they?
“Well they are in heaven.”
“Where is heaven?”
“It’s where God is.”
“Can I go and see them?”
“One day you can. When you are ‘old old’ yourself.”
With that, she shuffled off to play with her sister, hopefully not too traumatised by grandma’s theories. However, it got me thinking, if we are described as ‘young’, ‘middle-aged’ and then ‘old’, doesn’t each of these stages have stages of their own? I’d say it does, and I’m sticking to the notion that at 65 I am ‘young old’.