You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down, But You Can Piss Her Off
My grandmother will be having her 8oth birthday this summer, and to look at her or spend any time with her, that fact would surely shock you. She still rides her bike daily, still bowls with her girlfriends and loves to go out dancing. She’s a beautiful, vibrant woman who reads her local paper each morning, watches the national news each night and has an opinion on just about everything. When I look at her, I can’t help but hope I am glimpsing my own future. Some day I want to be a beautiful 80 year-old woman who still cares what happens to the world around me.
She’s a saucy little activist too. Last summer when there was so much talk of mosquitoes spreading West Nile Virus, she noticed a clogged drain on her bike route that was causing a rather large pool of standing water. She contacted the city, but still the pool sat and the mosquitoes multiplied. She took matters into her own hands. She made a sign that read “WARNING, West Nile Virus Breeding Ground!” nailed it to a wooden stake, strapped it on her bike and rode to the spot and hammered her warning into the ground. Needless to say, in a matter of days the drain was fixed and the water was gone. Ask her about it and she’ll likely say, “Well Jesus, there were kids playing all around there. This town is run by idiots.” You go Nana!
She lives in a small but growing town and there was recently a controversy over the expansion of the only hospital there. Everyone recognizes that the hospital must expand to accommodate the growing population and that it will create more jobs in the area. But there are people who live around the hospital who are concerned about growing traffic and helicopter noise. One of the city planning commissioners took up the cause of the neighbors and during a hearing said that the concerns of the neighborhood had to be weighed against helicopter flights that carry “82-year-old people who are going to live for a year and a half anyway.” This callous quote made it into the local paper, and when my Nana read it, she was pissed.
The statement started a firestorm in the community and it was in the papers all week. Should the commissioner be fired? What was he thinking? And there were plenty of Letters To The Editor from angry senior citizens. Also in the papers that week was news that the Bush administration was cutting funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) that provides food for 420,000 low-income seniors each month. Even on a good day, my Nana can’t stand Mr. Bush. In fact I went for a visit several years ago and I was reading Molly Ivan’s book “Shrub” that had a picture of Georgie on the back. Nana asked what I was reading and I held it up with the picture facing her and she instantly turned red and said “Oh, that little prick.” For the rest of my visit, I would occasionally hold up the picture and each time she had the same involuntary reaction and the same words came out of her mouth. It was so funny that I had a hard time stopping.
Anyway, on the heels of the planning commissioner’s ageist comment, reading about the cuts to CSFP sent my Nana over the edge. “Why don’t they just round us all up and shoot us then if they don’t want us around?” she asked. My Nana luckily doesn’t have to rely on food from the government to make it by, nor is she likely to have need for a helicopter ride to the hospital that is only a few miles from her home, but the affects of city, state and national policy that diminishes the value of our senior citizens, takes an emotional and psychological toll. The Bush administration has set the tone and it’s trickling down to state and local government as well.
My Nana was a hard working single mother in the 60s and managed to raise four beautiful daughters on the pittance she earned sorting nuts on a conveyer belt in the local nut factory. She worked that job until after I was born (when the factory closed its doors) and she switched to retail to supplement her social security (surprise, surprise, no retirement plan at the nut factory). Once retail was no longer an option, mind you she could still do it but she was “too old” to get hired anywhere, she started babysitting my younger cousins and cleaning houses (in her 70s), to make ends meet. And now, on the cusp of her 80th year, after a lifetime of hard work, she must navigate a prescription drug plan that was designed not for her, but for Big Pharma, fight against privatization of the only income she’s got left (that she earned) and on top of all that, listen to city officials insult her and watch the Bush administration devalue her generation’s contribution to this country and strip them of the last shreds of their dignity. I’m with you Nana, what a prick!