Why you should never save anything for a rainy day. Tough lessons learned from a 91 year old

Life as we once knew it no longer exists. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but the dynamics have changed in my family. We now have to accept the fact that our last remaining grandparent has suddenly been fraught with old age – I mean it’s just come out of nowhere like a bat out of hell.

My 91 year old grandmother has succumbed to the fact that she can no longer live independently and has to accept the reality now that she must live in a nursing home – a reality that she fought so hard and for so long.

I know a bit about this ageing population phenomenon (or worldwide crisis I should say) that currently exists. I work in the retirement village industry in Australia and I have an understanding of the issues and concerns currently facing our senior citizens. I have been exposed to the ageing process and how some view nursing homes and even retirement villages as ‘god’s waiting room’. It couldn’t be further from the truth. But like most of us, they simply want to feel safe and secure and know that their family has their best interests at heart.

Of course while the ageing process started years ago in my grandmother, it has only been in the last six months that ‘old age’ has really kicked in. What I mean by that is up until now, she was very fit and capable for a 91 year old. Now she looks like an elderly woman – her physique has changed and she walks with a walking stick.

Eight months ago she was an independent, strong-willed and stubborn woman living in a two bedroom unit in regional Victoria, still buying her own groceries and crossing busy main streets in areas where trucks could wipe her clean. I swear this woman has lived more than nine lives.

She was a master craftswoman – a gifted embroider who used to make my sister and I dresses and my brother shirts and pants. The kind of craftsmanship that existed only in her generation.

Unfortunately today this kind of craftsmanship is dying a slow death and her skills and talent will only be a faint memory.

She has survived breast cancer twice, had that many falls we’ve lost count yet she has never broken a bone and has suffered various infections and viruses. She’s a battler and has refused to accept help when offered to her, which has caused more than a few grey hairs for my mother. A couple of years ago we could see she was starting to need some help around the house but only for someone to come around once a week to assist her with the housework. When they left, she went over what they had already done and soon enough she cancelled the service altogether, to the dismay of my parents left shaking their heads in disbelief.

After a couple of stays in hospital this year it became very apparent that she could not return to live on her own. She has lost a significant amount of weight and has become weak and frail. After waiting for a vacancy to appear in one of the local nursing homes, she finally moved in.  But there was no resistance or disagreements this time – she knew in her heart this was the right thing to do.

Why am I telling you this? My sister said something to me the other day that stopped me in my tracks. She said she is never going to ‘save’ anything for special occasions and rainy days anymore. Since my grandmother moved into a nursing home, her unit has been sold and her possessions have been sifted and disposed of in various ways – some to family members and the rest given to charity.

We have uncovered an extraordinary amount of household items only seen and found decades ago, antiques, doilies, old recipes and cookbooks to name a few.

But what has surprised us all is the amount of possessions that she never used and many that have never been opened or seen the light of day. Beautiful old fabrics and materials, tea sets and cutlery sets – most that have never been used because she was simply leaving it all for a rainy day.

But that ‘rainy day’ has not arrived and now she lives in a tiny room, half the size of her old bedroom. She will never use and experience her possessions and most of it quite sadly will never be used by her sons and grandchildren either.

The last thing I want to be perceived as is a self-serving preacher, slamming down your throats the meaning of life crap. That is not my intention and many of you are just fine to figure that out for yourselves.

However, it reminds me of those chain emails that get forwarded to us from time to time. The type that have been written by other 90 or 100 year old grandmothers and great grandmothers (and fathers) offering their life’s lessons to be passed down to future generations. You know the type of emails I’m talking about, they contain things such as:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

6. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

7. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

8. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

9. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

10. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

11. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

12. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

13. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

14. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

15. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

16. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

17. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

18. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

19. The best is yet to come…with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”

and so on……

I’m just a regular girl who is currently reflecting on her grandmother’s life, hoping that she has a few more years ahead of her and a desire to share some of the lessons I have recently learned.

But if you will allow me to spread a message, then it’s this. Don’t save the best to last, don’t save the ‘good’ stuff for a rainy day or wear and use it only on special occasions.

Use that damn fine china tea set now; wear that dress you bought for your sisters wedding not only on the wedding day itself but next weekend when you go out; don’t buy a cutlery set you will never use  – use it at every dinner party and better still use it every night you have dinner with your family.

Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

Life is like one revolving door insofar as it goes round and round and round and we should never stop learning life’s most important lessons.

What are some of life’s lessons you have learned yourself or from those close to you? 

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~ by Shae on December 2, 2010.

8 Responses to “Why you should never save anything for a rainy day. Tough lessons learned from a 91 year old”

  1. Am definitely on board with the “live for the moment” philosophy – you just never know what’s around the corner and you should never something because you didn’t give it a try!

  2. Hi Shae, your grandmother certainly is a grand lady– I remember her decorating a birthday cake for me back in the 70’s- it was beautifully done. I have loved this story so much that I have printed it to send to my sister in law to have a read– she is unable to sit in front of a computer hence the reason I am sending it to her. You may be “just a regular girl reflecting on her grandmothers life” but I look forward to reading your blogs. This one has certainly made me sit up and take notice. Keep up the good “writings” I just love them Sheryl xoxo
    PS I hope you had a great birthday

  3. Very well thought-out and written, Shae, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this: a lot of food for thought. I hope your Nan’s crafts and other treasures are well distributed amongst friends and family. I’m happy to report that saving for “good” is not something we do in our family: everything gets used, all our “Worldly Goods” (LOL!) As an aside, you must listen/watch on YouTube comedian George Carlin’s piece on “STUFF” – hilarious. Not convinced on the benefits of living one’s remaining days in those tiny “retirement” rooms. They’ve become such an accepted, common part of modern-day living now, yet they didn’t exist a generation ago. Sorry to hear you feel you’ve been ‘dissed’; you deserve only the best! Oh, and Happy Birthday, and Many Happy Returns. Cousin Lynda of Limehouse. X0X

  4. Shae,
    Beautifully written and soooo true. Live, Love and Laugh.. that’s all you can do. My love to you and your nan.

  5. Nice reflections Shae, alot to be learnt from the ‘older’ generation about the importance and pure joy of social connections, untiy with family and friends and yes enjoyment from the possesions we have right now. Live every day as though its your last and really see the beauty and happiness that surrounds.Keep up the inspiring writing, well done. Manda

  6. Gosh what an amazing woman. Remember she gave you her first car, and of course who could forget her collecting the water from her shower in a bucket and then watering the plants with it – she was an environmentalist ahead of her time. Best of luck to your grandmother – here’s hoping she receives her letter from the queen!

  7. Shae, I have just found and read your blog. I really enjoy your easy style and ability to tell a story in a natural style. Great topics which many people will relate to. Keep it up.

  8. […] couple of years ago, after her 90th birthday party, I wrote an article about Nanny on my personal blog.  I wrote that she was an independent, strong-willed and sometimes stubborn woman living on her […]

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