Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Give the Grannies Their Pole-Dancing Shows Let Our Elders Find Joy Wherever They Please

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Give the Grannies Their Pole-Dancing Shows Let Our Elders Find Joy Wherever They Please

Article excerpt

Byline: Rob Rinder

MY UBER-Jewish, chickensoup-making grandma makes Maureen Lipman's Beattie seem like a Quaker maid. Today is her 90th birthday, and with all the wisdom that brings she still believes I can do no wrong (in the way only a grandparent can, without creating a total monster). She has a commitment never to give in. Her hairdresser was the first "official" visitor after hip surgery she didn't want to look a mess to the "old people" on the NHS ward or in front of the family (there was a note kept of how often we visited). Her desire to be just-so and never, as she would say in Yiddish, "a shloch," extends far beyond this life.

Recently she has been cultivating a rather incisive sense of headstone envy. She attends funerals and reports back on the taste of the choice of memorial "Oh, that golden lettering ... and did you see that marble? Still, Miriam was always flash in life!" Her aesthetic aptitude and un-fearing relationship with death are just two of the reasons I love and respect this woman.

I keep very few of the religious rituals or laws that were part of my upbringing but have never lost a core commandment at the epicentre of the faith I was taught; to respect one's elders. I still have three living grandparents so I'm hyper-aware of my behaviour towards them and others who come into their orbit. I expect my grandparents (and all older people) to be treated with respect. There seems to be a sort of tipping point, however, whereby once someone appears ill, or is visibly old, it is permissible to speak to them like a fool, or refer to them as if they are not there.

People will always meet you at the level at which you talk to and treat them. I cannot stand older people being spoken to in shouty-child-speak: "YOU LIKE FISH FINGERS, DON'T YOU, ELSIE?" When I hear this (and I have) I urge "Elsie" to scream, "No, I don't, you patronising amoeba, I saved this country from fascism, now bugger off!" Your gran may not know who you are, and maybe she'll ask the same question 14 times, but who cares? …

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