ChatterLog January 2011

Grandparents

Capricorn, the Sea-Goat

Greetings everyone and welcome to the year 2011! It is interesting to contemplate that we have not only begun a new calendar year, but also a new decade. As we get older, we find ourselves talking about our life in decades, such as comparing our current economic crisis to the “great depression” of the 20’s & 30’s, or growing up in the “swinging” 60’s, and so on… But when we now refer back to this last decade, and the first one of the 21st century, it just doesn’t seem to roll off the tongue quite so easily. So how were the “10’s” for you? Sounds weird, right? Well, weird or not, here we are in the year 2011 and what it has already given me is the rare opportunity to send out our 1st bulletin of the decade on 1-11-11 – not too many chances for that, now are there, so we consider it to be a very good omen! Can’t wait for November!

Total Lunar Eclipse, December 21st, 2010

Now since last month’s Winter Solstice, which fell on December 21st and happened to coincide with a spectacular Total Lunar Eclipse and a Full Moon all at the same time – something that had not taken place in 372 years and which won’t occur again until 2094 – I stood outside my building in the freezing cold and watched it in the middle of the night, and it was truly beautiful – and since that night we have started to gain one more minute of light each day as we head towards the Spring, which is a comforting thought in the depths of Winter, when daylight is hard to come by. It is no joke that many people do suffer from serious depression during the Winter months due to a lack of sunlight, and why there is such a high suicide rate in Nordic and Scandinavian countries where they live in darkness for half the year! For some strange reason, I read that Iceland is a rare exception to this rule…. But this seasonal depression is real and was aptly named SAD (seasonal affective disorder) for a good reason. One suggested treatment is to reproduce artificial sunlight using special light bulbs, and another is to administer carefully timed doses of the hormone melatonin. Of course if you have lots of money, then you spend your Winters in the Caribbean, but one of the things that I find bearable about the New York winters versus the English ones, is that even when the wind-chill and the temperatures are below freezing, we still have many beautiful bright sunny days with brilliant blue skies, so it doesn’t seem quite so bad. Whereas in England, we lived with months and months of one grey, damp day after another… uggh!

So having previously ‘traveled’ with our Centaur the Sagittarius, we now find ourselves in the no-nonsense sign of Capricorn, the Goat, the sign associated with “Grandparents” and this month’s theme. You may recall back in July that Cancer was our sign connected with motherhood and the family? Well, the sign that sits opposite on the zodiacal wheel is that of Capricorn, representing the grandparents. These people are serious-minded, mature and generally live to a ripe old age. Given the choice, they prefer the company of children, older people or animals, rather than regular adults! When they are younger, they seem older, and as they get older they become younger. My sister is a perfect example and has worked over the years both as a nanny and as a caretaker for the elderly, as well as being besotted with animals (especially black Labradors!) all her life. She is brilliant at taking care of all three groups because the “caretaking” comes naturally to her, (after all, she “took care” of our mother throughout her declining years) and she identifies with them, whether they are a curious young child, a poorly old person or an innocent animal that needs rescuing.

They may all seem somewhat different, but in many ways, they are quite similar. They all need her help and each is naïve in their own way possessing a pureness in their expression and emotions, nothing is wasted – and that pleases the Capricorn greatly. The less bullshit, the better! Our mother’s god-daughter, and our god-sister Victoria, whose birthday falls right as Capricorn ends and Aquarius begins, works as a highly dedicated and qualified pediatrics nurse, well, she’s more than a nurse, she’s pretty high up the chain really, but the point here is the area of nursing she chose to specialize in – I rest my case.

 

Left: These are my mother’s parents

Right: And these are my father’s parents

Grandparents are known not only for their ability to share their precious wisdom, but also to have fun. Their job is to essentially spoil the grandchildren, who in turn give them a reason to be young again and act the fool! Grandparents are there in a way that parents are not. For some people, their grandparents were far more influential in their upbringing than their parents were. Personally I did not have what I would call really close relationships with any of my grandparents. None of them lived nearby, so we did not see them that often. The relationships with them were not bad – they just weren’t as close as they might have been if we had lived in the same neighborhood. I do have many vivid memories of visits spent with my mother’s parents, and after our grandfather died relatively young, just our grandmother and her sister, great aunt Bell who lived around the corner, whereas my father’s parents were more likely to come and visit us so they could also attend the local tennis tournament. My mother’s father built a business importing butter and cheese while my father’s father was a Harley Street dentist, and as a great lover of the arts, his patients included such notables as violinist Yehudi Menuhin and ballerina, dame Margot Fonteyn. I begged my grandfather to allow me to meet her, but it never happened… And one grandfather played the banjo and the other the piano!

Along the way, like many people, I have adopted a few older women as my surrogate aunties and grandmothers, or they have adopted me, and one of those special ladies was long-time friend to our mother, “Auntie Jo” who is still going strong. Now well in her 80’s she continues to volunteer at the local seniors home, where she spends much of her time entertaining the residents, many of who are younger than her! When my sister last spoke with her, she said had been practicing her puppet act with ‘Winston’ every night in preparation for her role at the Holiday party. Another is my surrogate “Jewish Grandmother Gladys,” who lives over on the East side. I was first introduced to her when I came to live in New York, because her cousin is the mother of one of my best friends in England! Small world. Hungarian immigrants, Gladys’ family came to America, whilst my friend’s mother ended up in London after enduring the Nazi prison camps. Gladys took me under her wing, like she does anyone, no matter your color, creed or country – and she has always been there to lend a listening ear to my troubles. And after we have cried about the sad stuff, we laugh about all of the crazies and the funny stories to keep ourselves sane. God bless you Gladys, Auntie Jo and all you grandmothers (& grandfathers) out there.

“Grandma” Gladys

Photo by Louisa Curtis

But back to this idea of playfulness and the lighter side of Capricorn, and our senior citizens. Have you ever stopped to consider what wonderful stories the older generation always has up their sleeves? Stands to reason that if they have lived to a ripe old age, then they have lived a lot more ‘life’ and therefore have accumulated a lot more experiences, resulting in a ton of tremendous stories to tell us youngsters. The last time I was in England, my sister and I visited with Ethel, who is in her 90’s and lives just down the road. Ethel enjoys company, a glass of wine, and she loves to talk – she was brimming with fascinating stories of her life and years of ‘service’ working as a cook in the Manor House (a real-life “Upstairs-Downstairs” story) and her escapades with the American soldiers who were stationed over in England during the war. Overall, she wasn’t too impressed by the “Yanks” but she and her friend didn’t turn down a ride home in their truck after they’d missed the last bus home! Listening to her stories, she was a breath of fresh air, so positive and full of life, even as she nears 100. My sister says she always admires how she never complains, and we are convinced this is why she has been in such good health all these years. Over the Christmas Holidays, my sister and husband went to a party at one of the neighbors, and the three oldest guests, one of whom was Ethel, were literally the life and soul of the party. My sister said she hadn’t laughed so much and so hard for a long time, they were brilliant! What a wonderful lesson to us younger creatures who may still be struggling with the concept of growing older. May these ladies be an inspiration to us all, to be thankful for what we have, and to live a long, happy, and healthy life?

When considering our senior citizens, not just grandparents, it is interesting to look around the world at different cultures to see which ones revere their elders and which ones discard them. In many countries, the elder generations live right alongside the younger ones, but in the West, we have moved away from this concept and do not take our elderly in. Instead many of them are abandoned or left to spend their last days in a home, alone. My sister and I did our very best to keep our mother in her own home as long as we could, and we hoped that she would die there, but alas, that was not to be, and she did have to spend her final days in a nursing home. She was fortunate that she had the money to pay for good care and although she was understandably resistant to being there, they took great care of her and the nursing was excellent. Some years ago, my sister lived in Italy, where many families occupy the same house, with a different generation living on each floor. Imagine suggesting that to an independent “modern” family and they’d think you were mad all living under the same roof. A true “village” or community doesn’t abandon its elders – instead it takes care of them, just like they do the children. So if you have an elderly neighbor, check in on them and make sure they have groceries and whatever else they might need. Old age can be lonely.


Here is a hilarious photo I found of my sister and I with our mother’s mother!
Love the matching shoes!

And in closing I want to wish all you Capricorns out there a Happy Birthday, but a special birthday shout goes out to my sister, Charlotte, and I am dedicating this bulletin to her. We have been through so much in these past couple of years, but it has also brought us closer together, and we’re pretty certain that our mother is looking down on us and feeling very happy about that.

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