Dear Granny North,
Are all old people as fascinating as you? You’re rolling your eyes right now, aren’t you? I promise I mean no harm with my question. In fact, it’s actually a compliment. I think you are one of the most interesting people I know. You are such an individual. But have you always been that way? Or do you automatically transform once you’ve passed a certain age? I almost picture it like a game of Monopoly. After you pass “Go” for let’s say the 70th time, instead of collecting 200 dollars, you get a “Who cares! I’m-old-and-will-do-whatever-I-want Card.” In any case, I ask because I don’t have a point of reference. I don’t hang out with many chicks over the age of 65. And if I did, I think you’d get mad. You’re pretty competitive that way.
You came to mind the other day as I was rehearsing a song from the musical Oklahoma!, and somewhere in between singing about farm animals and starry nights, I had to stop and chuckle at the irony. There I was, Jeffrey Scott Parsons, a white Willard farm boy who moved all the way to the big, glitzy city of Los Angeles only to end up singing a song about how wonderful it is to live in the country. Go figure! But then, as I accepted the challenge, I figured, “Why not?” I come from a long line of non-sequiturs: immigrants entering the USA, pioneers crossing the plains to Utah, and of course, you! Somehow, while living in the same place for eighty years, you pioneered your way past every conventional, small town stereotype of what your life could have been, and I admire you for it.
I think you had an opportunity to play it safe. You could have grown up, got married, had a dozen kids, and that would have been the end of it. And while that has been and continues to be a wonderful life for many people, somewhere along the way you decided it wasn’t completely yours. So, when was it? How did you decide to be you? Maybe it all stems from your honesty. From what I gather, you’ve never had a problem saying exactly what you think. Perhaps that brutal honesty gave you the perspective and drive to do exactly what you wanted to do.
All I really know is by the time I made my appearance on the “Monopoly board,” I could see no one else like you. You are the cowgirl who rides a horse before making a trip to Nordstrom. You are the tough lady who kills rattle snakes with a garden hoe on the same day she gets her nails done. You’re the grandma who drives her grandkids around on “the golf buggy with the fringe on top” while irrigating the pastures. You are the wife who keeps a sparkling home on the inside and maintains an impeccable yard on the outside, not to mention the quintessential Sunday School Secretary who slurs out a “hell” or “damn” whenever deemed necessary. You are the creator of the aptly named Grandma’s Rolls, Grandma’s Roast Beef & Potatoes and Gravy, Grandma’s Homemade Fudge, Grandma’s Orange Julius, and Grandma’s cherry pie while managing to stay thin at the same time. You’re the girl who stayed put, but traveled around the world.
You and your complex nature have taught me many lessons, Granny. Here are a few:
- When women get older, their breasts droop, which then allows the daily brassiere to also act as a secret cash reserve that can “perk up” any crisis.
- Projection is key. If you want people to listen to you, talk louder.
- The dining table shouldn’t be the only thing clean enough to eat off of. Add to it the living room carpet and the asphalt driveway.
- Equality and bliss can both exist in a marriage.
- Animals should never die in storytelling, only people.
- Joy multiplies along with your offspring.
- Gravel will not naturally maintain itself. Bring a rake.
- Used cotton candy bags can be used as emergency hairnets at Disney World.
- You can go to church without waiting for your parents to tell you to do so.
- Wherever you are, bring a granola bar.
When I was sixteen, I saw my first Broadway show in New York City sitting right next to you. I saw my first eight Broadway shows that way. No matter how many times I may go there, that city will always remind me of you and Grandpa. It’s where my dreams came true. You made me a believer.
Granny, I know you’re not feeling too great right now. I wish there was something I could do. What you need to know is that even as we are all beside you, it is you who once again must lead. You are still that pioneer, paving a path where there wasn’t one before. None of us have been there, but we will know that you have. It is this legacy of strength and faith that I proudly inherit from you. It is my anchor: a stability that keeps me grounded but never weighs me down. I love you. Feel better.