Women, the anthropological folks tell us, love in three ages, and to me, those ages correspond with the parts of a romance. In the early pages, all is giddy innocence and girlish glee–a crush, in other words. This love consists mostly of joy and possibilities, without much practicality.
The next age is the love of the woman, full of passion and plans. Babies get conceived when this love is upon us, as do big dreams, careers, and exciting journeys. But… the dreams don’t always come true. Babies get sick. Long journeys don’t end up at our intended destination.
Thus, the third age is the love of the crone. Her appearance shows wear and woe, she’s not always so cheerful, and she’s seen dreams, and babies, die. And yet, myth, sociology, and wisdom literature tells us, it’s the love of the crone that transforms us. The girlish crush and the womanly passion have their time, but for progress toward world peace or inner peace, we need that beady-eyed, tenacious, tough-talking, this ain’t-going-to-be-pretty love of the crone.
From this grandma version of love, we learn that love stays around no matter what, love does heavy lifting–and the laundry. Love deals with disappointment, over and over, without accepting less than our best efforts. In the end, if our self-regard doesn’t have an element of this old woman love, we never get to be the person we’re supposed to be.
In my life, my mom was the one who modeled the pragmatic, tenacious, walk-through-fire/you-listen-to-me love. My pregnancy was high risk, and Mom–a registered nurse–flew across the country to spend weeks doing my housework and taking my blood pressure. She was furious with me for walking into unwed motherhood, and she was heart-broken for me.
When I brought the baby home from the hospital, Mom burst into tears, one of few times I saw her cry. “Mom, the baby’s fine. Why are you crying?”
“Because I know what she’ll have to go through, and what you’ll go through.” Then Mom went grocery shopping.
When I was badly bullied in fifth grade, Mom marched into Monsignor’s office, told him his school had a serious problem–he did not dare argue with her–and enrolled me in the local public school. When the high school principal didn’t want to let me take Trig, Music Theory, and Latin, Mom told him to get a damned clue. Grace can do anything she puts her mind to.
Grace hadn’t known that, until her mom announced it in the middle of a tirade.
My mother left this earthly realm earlier this month in a peaceful and not unexpected passing at the age of 92. She abides in my heart, and always will.
She also abides in my stores of wisdom. One of her best pieces of advice was, “Don’t make decisions when you’re tired. The problem will still be there in the morning.” Neuroscience has long since come down in favor of her guidance.
What’s an example or a bit of wisdom, given to you by your mom, crazy aunt, or grandma? Or maybe… a bit wisdom life has passed along to you, that you wish you could share with younger self?