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I became a first-time grandmother on August 13. The same son I dropped at the Fitness Incentive babysitting room on Montauk Highway has now started his own family…

Christine Jelley

Grandma and Elliot (by Christine Jelley)

When I was growing up, many grandmothers had gray hair folded into neat buns, calmed colicky babies, knitted blankets and made holiday and Sunday dinners for the extended family. My grandmother immigrated from Ireland in the late 1920s and opened a bar with her husband in Astoria, Queens. They had two sons in quick succession before my grandfather promptly died of tuberculosis, leaving Grandma to make her way. She was tough as nails, packed her young boys off to boarding school, made a success of the bar, donated stained glass windows to the local Catholic Church and invested in real estate. Never warm and fuzzy, she shamelessly favored grandsons over granddaughters, but we knew that she loved us all and I sometimes got a check in the mail for $20 with a note that said, “Don’t tell anyone I sent this money. You don’t need fair-weather friends.”

Back then, there were no gyms. Grandmothers didn’t work out; they just worked hard. A trip to the ocean twice a year and a walk to The Avenue were big deals. Grandma didn’t run errands around town in yoga pants wondering about her BMI – she wore a cotton dress, a restaurant apron, had an industrial roast beef slicer and secretly used Gravy Master to make her gravy. Not a better time, but a different one. She never told us her age, but we believe she lived well into her 80s.

I became a first-time grandmother on August 13. The same son I dropped at the Fitness Incentive babysitting room on Montauk Highway has now started his own family. Although I’d like to say that I work out with the same intensity I did ten or twenty years ago, it’s just not so. Ligaments and tendons have started barking, but I still go to the gym. I do the easier stuff and wouldn’t give it up. I see men and women in my age group on the elliptical, in the classes, having coffee after a workout. We’re okay, I promise.

Yet, many people are resisting aging with a vengeance. Going under the needle, the knife, bench-pressing crazy amounts of weight, posting photos on dating websites captioned, “I look and feel much younger than my age. No old fogies need to respond!” Both men and women are seeking partners many years younger than themselves because of their perceived excellence in fitness, finance, and snappy dressing.

When did older people get so shallow and desperate? Where do aging and fitness dovetail, preserving health and dignity at the same time? Have the images we see everyday blinded us to the real joy that comes from holding our families close, being proud instead of apologetic of who were are and how long it’s taken us to get here? Isn’t it good enough to be physically fit, pay attention to how you look and get on with your day?

For the record, I’m no slouch. I get my fair share of compliments including, “You don’t look your age.” Instead of being lauded for looking younger, I’d prefer to be recognized for something I can maintain: good in my division. Of course, I don’t want it said in those words! I may be a new grandmother, but I still smile big when someone tells me I’m pretty.


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About the Author

christine jelley

Christine Jelley

Christine Jelley is a long-time member and new grandma that doesn’t look her age. She’s a regular contributor to these pages.

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