Remembering My Grandparents
When memory began for me, my grandfather was past sixty-a great tall man with thick hair becoming gray. He had black eyes and a straight nose which ended in a slightly flattened tip. Once he explained seriously to me that he got that flattened tip as a small child when he fell down and stepped on his nose.
The little marks of laughter at the corners of his eyes were the prodnct of a kindly and humorous nature. The years of work which had bent his shoulders had never dulled his humour nor his love of a joke.
Everywhere he went, "Gramp" made friends easily. At the end of half an hour you felt you had known him all your life. I soon learned that he hated to give orders , but that when he had to, he tried to make his orders sound like suggestions.
One July morning, as he was leaving to go to the cornfield, he said : "Edwin, you can pick up the potatoes in the field today if you want to do that. " Then he drove away with his horses.
The day passed, and I did not have any desire to pick up potatoes. Evening came and the potatoes were still in the field. Gramp, dusty and tired, led the horses to get their drink.
"How many bags of potatoes were there?" Gramp inquired. "I don't know. "
"How many potatoes did you pick up?"
"I didn't pick any. " "Not any! Why not?"
"You said I could pick, them up if I wanted to. You didn't say I had to. "
In the next few minutes I learned a lesson I would not forget: when Gramp said I could if I wanted to, he meant that I should want to.
Gram hated cruelty and injustice. The injustices of history, even those of a thousand years before, angered her as much as the injustices of her own day.
She also had a deep love of beauty. When she was almost seventy-five, and had gone to live with one of her daughters, she spent a delightful morning washing dishes because, as she said, the beautiful patterns on the dishes gave her pleasure. The bird, the flowers, the clouds-all that was beautiful around her- pleased her. She was like the father of the French painter, Millet, who used to gather grass and show it to his son , saying , "See how beautif ul this is ! "
In a pioneer society it is the harder qualities of mind and character that are of value. The softer virtues are considered unnecessary. Men and women struggling daily to earn a living are unable, even for a moment, to forget the business of preserving their lives. Only unusual people, like my grandparents, manage to keep the softer qualities in a world of daily struggle.
Such were the two people with whom I spent the months from June to September in the wonderful days of summer and youth.
He always rose early to enjoy at least two hours of solitude in the house and garden before the rest of the family came down In winter he spent most of the time reading and writing. In sum mer he liked to get out of doors to work in the kitchen garden or to take the dog for a walk in the neighbouring woods and fields Whatever the weather, there was plenty to occupy him.
Although he was a creature of habit, there seemed to be an infinite variety in his pursuits. He wrote book reviews regularly for two of the national weeklies. He worked conscientiously his special subject, Indian History, and was thus one of the world authorities on it;
he collected modern abstract paintings and so had a circle of friends amongst artists and sculptors; there was hardly anything he did not know about traditional jazz and he often entertained both British and America n jazz musicians He was a superb cook and knew a lot about French and German food.
His family adored him and in a sense he was spoiled by them. At first glance you would have taken him for a retired army officer-his bearing was erect, his hair was cut short, he was fussy about his clothes, which were always neat, clean and conventional. He liked to keep fit, and this was reflected in his clear, steady blue eyes and healthy suntanned complexion. He hardly ever watched TV, but enjoyed a good film and an occasional evening at the theatre.
The elderly who find great rewards and satisfactions in their later lives are a small minorit.y in this country. But they do exist. They are the"aged elite".
What is most striking about these people is their capacity for growth. When Arthur Rubinstein was eighty, someone told him that he was playing the piano better than ever. "I think so," he agreed. "Now I take chances I never took before. I used to be so much more careful. No wrong notes. Not too bold ideas. Now I let go and enjoy myself and to hell with everything except the music!'
Another reason for the success of the aged elite are the traits they' have formed earlier in their lives. A sixty-eight-year-old woman, three times married and widowed , says , "It's not just what you do when you're past sixty-five.
It's what you did all your life that matters. If you've lived a full life, developed your mind, you'll be able to use it past sixty-five. Let the young people put that in their soup and eat it. "
Along with frankness comes humor. A sense of humor, of course, is not something that suddenly arrives at age sixty-five. It is an aid people use all their lives to cope with tension. "Humor, " says Dr James Birren, noted psychologist, also leads you to join with other people. "
The ability to associate with others is another trait of the aged elite. "There are two ways to deal with stress," says Birren. "You either reach out or withdraw. The reachers seek out other people to share their problems instead of pulling away. "
Growing, active, humorous, sharing-these are all qualities that describe the aged elite.英语口语