Grandmother: I do not think that means what you think that means.

When you think of people in their 70s, you may conjure up an image of technophobe old people and white-haired grandmas who play canasta for exercise or scoot around the mall in Rascal Mobility Scooters. Instead, I want you to picture the 71 year-old I know best.

grandma and thalia


She is the first one in the pool.

She can bench press me under the table.

Her emails are worth saving with subject lines like FW: Anne Carson’s  “Gnosticism V” and See What’s Getting My Goat Today

She has never forwarded me a “Bill Gates will send you a million dollars” email,  and only once sent me a chain letter (but I forgive her).

Her coffee is too strong for Russian wrestlers.

She didn’t camp out in Zucotti Park with the Occupy Wall Street kids, but she did bring them pizzas.

She still sends handwritten cards but has an app collection that makes her iPad the envy of the third grade.

The only time she colors her hair is with a big pink streak–and then offers a matching one to her granddaughters.

Botox = no.

Her favorite poem for years was When I am an Old Lady I Shall Wear Purple–until those red hat people co-opted it and made it corny. Now she sticks with black a lot, like a good New Yorker should.

She does not own a Hummel figurine, an appliqued Christmas sweater or a commemorative spoon.

She is not profane but she will tell me secretly on the side just who should fuck off. Or worse. And she is right.

She saves every piece of artwork her grandkids make, only not on the refrigerator. I don’t think she even has a refrigerator magnet.

Not only does she understand what blogging is, she is doing it herself.

She is a dream travel companion. Even when we’re lost. Even when we’re lost in Galicia.

I’m jealous of her triceps.

She was the first to march against the illegal war in Iraq after 9/11 and she’d do it again.

She will drive 2 hours in the snow to see her granddaughters because when she makes a commitment, she makes a commitment.

She is still reinventing herself with a brand new career just as she embarks on her eighth decade on this planet.

She is learning French right now.

She made this.

She will hug you the first time she meets you.

You could tell her that 71 is the new 31 and she’d laugh. Then tell you she’s just fine being 71.

Nancy Letts

Happy 71st birthday to an amazing mother, grandmother and friend. I want to be you when I grow up. Fortunately, we share the same genes so I might be so lucky.


27 thoughts on “Grandmother: I do not think that means what you think that means.”

  1. Your mom is so awesome. I love how she has struck that perfect balance of being inspirational without being competitive or inducing jealousy (triceps not withstanding).

  2. Have just seen your mother’s documentary teaser. I didn’t realise you had such problems over in your country too. We had one day teachers’ strike last week in our state (public) schools over pay, pension schemes and jobs. She looks like a real gem. Please read my latest post on the remarkable Mary Berry – another inspirational person who you may or may not have heard of. Your comments about your Mom’s commitment reminded me of how Mary turned down an offer of lunch with theQueen.

  3. Your mom rocks. Just donated to her documentary effort. Keep up the amazing work–both of you.

  4. With a talent as big as yours and a memory to beat the band, Hysteria should be my name today. Actually, it is. Thank you, Liz. Thank you.

  5. It’s the pink hair that kills me. And the fact that I think you two went together to Bosnia to help after the war, right?

  6. I love it!

    Last Christmas, my brother, his daughter, my sons, and I all wrote on slips of paper things we thank my mom, 75, for. One of the things my boys wrote was, “Thanks for teaching us how to spit long distance.”

    Yep. That.

  7. “She’s the first in the pool.” That’s all I need to see. That’s the kind of 71 year old I want to be — and the kind of 50 year old I hope I am.

  8. Cool. Both of you.

    Can I be your mom when I grow up? (Mine, though lovely and does NOT wear red hats, is decidedly less feisty. I wanna be feisty.)

    Happy Birthday to her!

  9. Dude, and I mean that in a gender neutral way, just a cali term…I remember last year in Pt. Reyes when she turned 70 and just started running two miles a day..Yea, not so normal to start distance running at 70, but nothing Aunt Nancy does is “normal”… if she was “the norm,” this world would be a much cooler place..Miss and love to y’all..
    Bless up

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