Still Badass At 83, by Bryan Lackey

The Writing Of Bryan Lackey

Still Badass At 83: A Tribute To My Grandmother

Still Badass At 83: A Tribute To My Grandmother

I meant to write this a few weeks ago, after my grandmother was kind enough to accompany me to lunch one fine Saturday afternoon. She's still quite alive, and well, and I don't believe I could ever forget her, but I want her story, and what she's meant to me out in the ether. It deserves to be seen.

My last grandmother, my dad's mom, and my last living grandparent, turned 83 this year. I've only known her as Grandma, since she was already in her late 50s when I was born and mid to late 60s by the time I really got to know her. In that time I've seen her run a pet store, love and lose her husband, loan me money, have a stroke, break her hip, and surprise the hell out of her second youngest son on his 50th birthday, among other things.

My grandma has been many things to me over the years. She's taught me how to cook, how to manage money, and how to not get old no matter what the calender says. She kicked my ass to stay in school (well not that I needed that, but the support was definately appreciated). And she taught me to never stop fighting, never stop learning, and never stop living. She's old New York Italian, who married an Irish kid of marginal responsibility right before he went off to World War II, and while I don't know if she was different when she was younger, I've always known her personality as a wonderful mix of compassion, curiosity, and abject fiestyness, and I think more than anything-more than her incredible lasagna that even a vegetarian would eat (admittedly eating around the meat chunks), more than linguini and clam sauce, more than helping me out of a financial jam or two, more than all those wonderful Christmases growing up where Santa made two stops, and even more than showing up to my rock gigs-that I'll always remember most about her. It's that force of will that's carried her through this far, and may well keep her through long past me.

She had a stroke in her late 70s. Within a month I couldn't tell it had happened, and I was back to coming over to see her tackling some 600 page monstrosity of a book.

She fell and broke her hip when she was 80, and needed a partial hip replacement. All those cliches about old people breaking their hip and then rolling over and dying? Generally true, sadly. But she was in rehab for 3 weeks and stayed another month with us, and then she was right back to doing her own gardening.

She lives in her own home and maintains it almost completely herself-the relatives help a bit with roof cleaning, but tree and bush maintence, lawn mowing, all the insides, cooking...she's more independent than most 20 year olds I know.

She reads voraciously. My dad routinely brings over bags of 500+ page books on any number of subjects-fiction, biography, politics, thrillers-and she chows through that and the local paper every day.

She's got bigger biceps than I do. Probably a stronger grip too. At least 3.5gg.

Of all my family members, I think she may be the one that's closest to my friend. I've had multihour conversations with her, and nothing patronizing or dwelling only in the past on either side. I've learned about her life, and the other wings of my family, sure, but she can talk politics with me almost as well as any libertarian junkie I know-and then switch over to celebrity gossip, and then TV shows, and then Lakers basketball or Angels baseball. I laugh my ass off when I'm around her, especially when she says something that really shouldn't be coming out of a grandmother's mouth-like when she told me about being high on Demerol when she was giving birth to one of my uncles, and being very glowing in the description, or at the aforementioned lunch, delivering a great line when talking about my cousin's wife.

"I hope they don't have kids. She's a bitch!

I always drew a sad parellel between my two grandmothers. My mom's mom really let her mind slip, and gave up on life over the last several years, and the result was depression and tradgedy. Her death, as much as it hurt, was a mercy. My dad's mom though-she never has. It's all of this above, and more...the way she's conducted herself, and her whole attitude. Yeah, she worries about passing, and she says she's slower now...but just because she got older doesn't mean she ever got old. Ayn Rand said that there was a difference between living, and simply not dying. My grandmother has never simply Not Died. She has lived, to the fullest, and keeps on living every day. And by example and by instruction and by association, she's taught me how to live. When the calender ticks up that high for me, I hope I'm half as good as she is. I hope to Primus that I've got a small fraction of her energy, her intellect, her strength, and her heart, because if I do I'll be clear headed at a hundred and twenty. And even though I know that eventually she will exit this world and pass to the afterlife she believes in, it is my fondest wish for myself and for the others she cares about that that day is not for a damn long time, because even after all these years of existence, as we attempt to blindly muddle through, she is still showing us the way.