Opinion: Dear Susi Q 

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Pondering a Question from a Four-Year-Old

By Lynette Brasfield

Q: Grandma, how did you get so old?

A (somewhat) tongue-in-cheek answer from Grandma Lynette

Luck, my dear Gwynn, just luck. First of all, I was born! The odds of that are just 1 in 400 trillion. (Oh, you can only count up to 50, Gwynn? That’s okay. Trust Grandma, 400 trillion is a lot!)

Funnily enough, wars have quite a bit to do with my birth. You see, one of my ancestors in Scotland was a blacksmith. Not only were blacksmiths usually strong, healthy men – because they had to “smite” (hence smith), metal into shape – but they were often spared from being sent to war and possibly dying in combat. That’s because their skills were needed at home to hammer steel into weapons. So they lived long enough to have lots and lots of children.

It’s also why there are so many people named Smith in the world.

Then, in 1948, my Glaswegian dad, Alexander Robertson Shanks, returned to Cape Town, where his merchant navy ship had been berthed during the Second World War. There, he met my mother, Dorothy Lilian Carr.

They married, and I was born in 1955. My journey to dotage had begun!

Of course, not all my ancestors were lucky. One of them died when a bulldozer ran over him. He was remembered as Crushed Thomas. (The Scots have a dour, sometimes macabre sense of humor.) That’s the downside of not getting old, you see.

Aging certainly takes years and years of practice. Then, one day, you look in the mirror, and voila! No more need to practice. You’re ancient!

I rather like being old. You learn something new every day. For example, wrinkles are like a personal etch-a-sketch. Each morning, when you look in the mirror, there’s a whole new pattern to check out! It’s also fascinating when you wake up with an ache or two to discover that there are parts of your body you hardly knew existed when you were young. And people are so friendly. You get called things like “dear” and “honey” and “OK Boomer.”

Remember when we went to Adventure City, and the Giggle Ferris Wheel went around and up, and how awesome it was when we reached the top of the cycle?

Being old is kind of like that. You’re the same person you always were, but you see things from a different, broader perspective. The ride can be bumpy, but for the most part, it’s a blast, at least for us lucky ones.

So that’s my wish for you, Gwynn. That you’ll have a wonderful ride for a very long time, just as I am having – and one day a granddaughter as funny and sweet as you are.

Oh, and my favorite stanza from You Are Old, Father Williamby Lewis Carroll)

“You are old,” said the youth; one would hardly suppose

That your eye was as steady as ever;

Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose —

What made you so awfully clever?”

The Susi Q adds to the fun with programs that offer art, writing, music, opera and other fabulous diversions. We also offer great resources to help with legal, financial, transportation, technological, and medical needs. And if you want to explore some of the reasons YOU were born, explore your past by joining our Ancestry Club! For more information visit www.thesusiq.org.

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