Saturday, June 29, 2013

They Say You're Never Too Old .....

My grandmother* was born in 1907 and my grandfather in 1904.  That means when I was born (1957) they were, respectively, 50 and 53 years of age.
(*Throughout these musings, I will refer to them as my grandparents.  Even though they legally adopted me and were, therefore, my parents [for a while, at least], the story just gets too confusing if I call them that.)
These photos were taken in 1960, but my grandparents really didn't change much during the time I lived with them.
My grandfather had his hair cut in a "flat top" when he was in his 40's or so, and didn't waver from that style to the day he died.  I used to love running my hand over his hair -- it was so soft and tickly.

I was trying to smile, but the sun was in my eyes.

The wearing of a hat was de rigueur for proper ladies in the 1950's, and my grandmother was nothing if not proper.  Though she was never a slave to fashion, she did indulge every now and then -- note the cats-eye glasses!

I'm not so sure I'm trying to smile this time.
And it looks like she's holding me so I can't run off. (Again.)
For some reason, I keep hearing the refrain:
"Pleeeeease release me, let me go ....."

My grandmother's hair was NOT soft and tickly.  She was an aficionado of Lilt home perms and her hair was always neatly coiffed.  In a few years my own hair, stick straight and baby fine, would be the target of her perm addiction.
While writing this, I've realized that I'm just a few years older than my grandparents were when they took me in.  Of course, we all have different fitness and energy levels, but I can't IMAGINE taking on the responsibility of a toddler at my age.  They must have thought they were up to the challenge, though.
(A few years ago a family member [my mother?] told me that my uncle had wanted to adopt me at the same time he adopted my brother, but that my grandparents insisted on taking me.  I can only wonder how different my life would have been had I gone to live with them back in 1958.)
My grandmother was an elementary school teacher, my grandfather taught high school "shop" classes.  Among my late grandfather's papers, I found a letter addressed to my grandmother, congratulating her on my adoption and saying that she would now, surely, be retiring to care for me?
Again, remember that this was pre-feminist, "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" America.  Fathers worked, mothers were housewives.  Yet, for some reason, my grandmother opted to continue working.  This is another question that will never be answered.  Perhaps she actually found a sense of fulfillment through her job?  Perhaps their finances were such that she needed to work to be able to pay the bills?  I simply don't know.
I specifically remember attending two different daycares.  The first was in a lovely, large old home on a tree-lined street and, unfortunately, I've forgotten its name.  The other was "Miss Cook's Kindergarten," a small facility that I attended just prior to starting real kindergarten. 
But more important than either of these two, I spent many hours in the care of my beloved maternal great-grandmother.  She was in her 70's at the time, but she was generous with her care and her affection, and I loved the time I spent with her. 
Don't be fooled by my expression here -- I was sick that day.
When my grandparents first took me in, we lived several miles north of the city.  About a year later, we'd move to a neighborhood in the city center.  It was closer to where my grandparents' schools were located, but it was also much closer to my great-grandmother's home.  (The pictures at the top of this page were taken on that moving day.)
Forty may be "the new 20" and 50 "the new 30," but today when I hear about older couples planning to adopt very young children, it rankles.  At some point we all need to acknowledge the reality that we're simply too old to take on some responsibilities.
I know that my grandparents were too old to adopt me.