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A Grandmother’s Secret to Turning 90

How does one reach the age of 90? It involves family, kindness and curiosity.

Grammie at 90 surrounded by her grandchildren. Photo courtesy Rick Hamlin.

Holiday time is upon us and we got a kick start on family time last weekend when my sibs, our spouses, our kids and spouses and their kids–some 28 of us–gathered to celebrate my mom’s 90th birthday, or as she is given to say, “You only turn 90 once.” (“Mom,” I’m tempted to say, “some people don’t turn 90 at all.”)

Did I say Mom? Well, she is universally known as Grammie, and I was amused to hear us all call her that over the weekend even if she’s mom or mother-in-law or grandmother-in-law or great-grandmother. Do you do that in your family too? We call our beloveds by their relationships to us and to our loved ones.

Like when I’m talking about my wife Carol to our kids, I’ll say “Mom,” or at least “your mother.” Carol? Who’s she? She’s not “Carol” to them. And my mom always called my dad “Daddy” whenever she talked about him, although maybe when she was addressing him she said, “Honey.” At least their Christmas presents under the tree were addressed to “Honey 1 from Honey 2” or vice versa.

Read More: My Father’s Faith

Mom has been a grandmother for almost 40 years now, and she’s never had any qualms about being called “Grammie.” She never had any desire to come up with some name that sounded a little less grandmotherly. She might not be the type that bakes cookies and knits afghans–she played tennis till well into her 80s–but she relishes the role.

She has an email relationship with all her grandchildren and follows them on Facebook. You might be tempted to friend her yourself, but I should warn you, she only friends immediate family. Don’t take it personally. She wants to keep up but without overburdening her inbox or feed.

What’s her secret to a long, happy life? I could point to her relentlessly upbeat personality–she rarely says a negative thing–or her constant curiosity–she has a question for everyone. I could describe her gift for friendship and her solid faith (she’s the one who drives the other seniors to church).

But I’d like to suggest it’s somehow connected to that name Grammie. She knows how to love and welcomes the opportunity. She is happy to be called by a word that defines that love.

Someone in describing the Trinity helped me make sense of that mystery of mysteries when they pointed out it’s all about love. Love is best shown in relationship and the trifecta of Father, Son and Holy Spirit all in one is a bundle of undiminished, unbeatable love. Not for nothing did Jesus tell us to call God in prayer “Our Father.”

So dear Father in heaven, I thank You for giving me–giving us–Grammie. What a gift of a life, what a life that’s all about giving. Amen.

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