Grandparents are the kale in the salad of life. They came first, they have the most to offer you and most of the time, they are under appreciated.
My grandmother will be 76 on April 15, Tax Day. This is the first birthday I will spend with her in over a decade. It's not because I was busy doing other things, it's because she lives in my home country of South Africa. You may be thinking that an article about a 76-year-old woman has nothing to offer a young an on fleek Millennial such as yourself, but I can assure you that you are wrong.
I feel extremely blessed to have a grandparent alive and although she lives 10,391 miles away, she has spent the last four months with us in the US. I have treasured that time and the time did fly by. So in honor of my granny's birthday, I want to list all of the invaluable things I have learned from her, and what you can learn from your grandparents as well:
1. Be present with the people you are with.
My grandmother has sarcastically commented about my incessant need to be glued to my phone numerous times. Sometimes I think she just does not understand my generation, but then I remember she understands something beyond my generation often does not.
She understands and knows what is truly important in life. Put your phone down when you are at dinner with your friends and loved ones; give them your full attention. This is an excellent rule for dating, too.
2. Know the value of friendship.
Granny has a bigger circle of gay friends than Carrie from "Sex And The City." She makes it to every fabulous dinner party and she enjoys being the life of the party. Aside from her fabulous gay friends, granny is loved by everyone, and I mean literally everyone. She makes friends everywhere she goes and has kept in touch with all of her school friends.
Cherish your friends, and don't be closed off to making new friends or including new friends in plans with the old friends. Granny always says “No house is too small; the more the merrier.” Consider that when planning your next dinner party.
3. Be independent.
Granny has not had an easy life. Her mother died on her 13th birthday, her father died at a young age and my grandfather recently died. When my grandfather died, we wondered how is this woman was going to go on. Yet, she has proven us all wrong. Granny is the most independent woman I know. She never let life stop when my grandfather died.
She started paying her own bills, learning to fix things and learning to be comfortable with driving again. The hardest challenge was when she flew 23 hours by herself to spend time with us. Sometimes we go through a break up or something tragic happens and we feel as though life won't go on, but learn from granny and know life does go on and you can live.
4. Muster all the strength you have.
When my grandfather became ill, granny became his caretaker and did everything for her him on her own. She was there when he felt nauseous after chemotherapy. She was there to drive him to all of his appointments at the hospital. She was there to make him laugh and was there for all of us.
Her strength is admirable. Sometimes in life we are faced with a challenge we think is insurmountable. But instead of cowering away, you have to pull all the strength you have inside of you and when you think you have pulled out everything you have, pull even more.
5. Have unconditional love for your partner.
It still haunts me to think back to my grandfather dying in the hospital. I still tear up thinking of how my once robust pot-bellied grandfather was lying there probably weighing a little over 100 pounds. In that moment, I witnessed true unconditional love when my granny entered the room cheery as ever to feed him. I have such a clear memory of her saying “My goodness, you look so handsome today. Would you like some water?”
He couldn't speak, but he nodded his head and smiled. She gave him the water. I thought to myself, this is the kind of love I want one day. Luckily, I met the man of my dreams after a few years. Don't go looking for superficial qualities in a partner, because circumstances may change. Love that person unconditionally for better or for worse.
6. Maintain your youthfulness.
Granny is incredibly tech-savvy, up to date with current music, knows how to contour with highlighter and bronzer and follows all of the latest celebrity gossip (she may or may not refer to the Kardashians as if they were family friends of hers). Granny is well versed in not only emoji, but also Bitmoji.
She can not only text you, but she can also WhatsApp you. Granny will also probably kill me when this article comes out, since she tells people she is 35. You may feel as though you are getting older every year, but age is just a number. Stay young at heart and don't get too old too fast.
7. Know the value of a good tune.
The first thing granny will say when she sees me is “Ooh, I downloaded the most beautiful music.” She will ask strangers if they have heard of André Rieu, her favorite composer. When they say no, she will scoff and tell them how well known he is internationally. Granny is passionate about music of all genres. She is truly a music aficionado.
Once she asked me if I wanted to listen to Frank Sinatra and I said “I'll listen later granny.” She then promptly reminded me that she listens to my music when I ask her to. After she said that, I realized she was right and I began crooning “New York, New York” completely out of tune with her.
Take time to appreciate your grandparents' music. If they are no longer alive, take time to appreciate your parents' music. Music is a powerful tool, and often a window into understanding someone's soul.
8. Don't take life too seriously.
Not only does granny tell people she is 35 years old, but she also tells people she has many boyfriends, who are all celebrities, of course. Granny is a big believer that laughter is the best medicine. Not only can she make you laugh, but she will laugh at any of your jokes, and I mean any.
Sometimes we get caught up in the seriousness of life. Sometimes we bring work stress home or personal stress to work. Don't do this. Instead, realize that life is short and it's far too short to spend aggravated over things that will seem insignificant in hindsight.
9. Understand the importance of good skincare.
Granny has porcelain skin. People always comment on how gorgeous her skin is and I am secretly hoping I have inherited that from her. So far so good. She has a very simple routine that involves a Dove Beauty Bar and a washcloth. I, of course, have started following in her footsteps by using the Dove Beauty Bar in hopes of having her skin when I get to be her age.
You may have just gotten home from a party and are too lazy to take off your makeup, but just do it. Take care of your skin and make sure your nightly routine is never skipped. Also try the Dove Beauty Bar with a washcloth instead of a hard exfoliator. It works wonders and makes your shower smell amazing.
10. Stay in love with life.
Granny is constantly in a state of amazement. We live in an age where people are bored with technology and want newer things faster, but granny is so amazed at all the technology we have in the US. She is amazed at how I can type an entire text message without looking. Granny thinks life is truly amazing. We take so much for granted and we are so quick to say we're bored. But instead of feeling bored with life, find a way to fall in love with it again and view life as amazing.
My dad has always said that the single most important person in the family is granny. She is the matriarch. He could not be more right. Granny has taught me so much in life and I appreciate and love her more than I could put into words. She is the one person who pushes me to write and has kept all of my written pieces since I was a child up until now.
If you are lucky enough to have a grandparent still alive, treasure it. Make time for your grandparents because the wisdom they have to offer you is invaluable. In the salad of life, we may get caught up eating the exciting fruits and vegetables or dousing everything with the creamy dressing, but the kale is where most of the nutrients are.
If I have any regrets in life it, will be about every time I told my grandparents we could do something later. Life is short and a later is never promised. Happy birthday to my gorgeous grandmother. Your life has given us all life, and you are truly nothing less than a fabulous invaluable gem.