What Babci Taught Me About Aging

by Sandy L on November 2, 2010

8 foot Cherry Tree

As most of you know, Babci is an avid gardener, so for about 8 months out of the year, she will be out in her yard just about every day that it’s not raining. This week, when I drove up to her house, I found this sapling in the process of being transplanted.

Babci the Smuggler

In case you’re curious, this is a sour cherry tree. She had been asking me to find one for her. Despite my best efforts scouring the web and plant catalogs, I couldn’t find the strain she wanted. When she went to Poland two years ago, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She found one there and smuggled it back in her luggage.  On the drive back from the airport, she told me excitedly about her secret cargo. She didn’t have a big bag so I was expecting a tiny little sapling in her suitcase. When she packed it, she somehow managed to soak and bend the branches in a way that she could wrap the tree limb  in a U shape in her luggage.  When she took the tree out, it sprung  open (boy oy oing) into a 6 foot sapling. I can only imagine the words that were exchanged between her and her twin sister while they packed the night before.  I think she had 2 other trees in there too, but now I forget what they were. I think a plum and a peach.

Super Strength

In her prime, Babci was super strong. I remember in college when Babci was about 60, I got this big metal teacher’s desk for free that I was trying to get into the house. The thing was crazy heavy. I had 2 college guys trying to lift it up just three steps and they were struggling. One of them weighed at least 220.  Babci was standing there watching the whole thing. After several failed attempts, she decides she can’t watch anymore and switches places with one of the guys. She braces herself and heaves the desk onto the landing in one full swoop. It was just incredible that a 5’2 woman could be that crazy strong.

Then about 10 years later, I asked her to help me carry a TV up the stairs. You can imagine my surprise when she began struggling to hold her end up. I had visions of my new TV smashing down the stairs and I’m like “lift the TV woman, what the heck is wrong with you?” Oh yeah, you’re 70.  It was sad for me to realize that she was starting to get old and could no longer do the superhuman things she used to do.

The Transition

Today Babci is 77. She still line dries her clothes, mows the lawn, has a huge garden, cooks everything from scratch, mends my kid’s clothes and DIGS UP 8 FOOT SAPLINGS.  When I saw this tree partially dug up, I offered to help her pry the roots up (hence the stump in the background).  She declined my offer. She said she needed the exercise and she’ll easily get it done without my help.  The next day, the tree was in it’s new home and the day after, the hole was covered back up again.  Back in her prime, she would have done this in an afternoon after a full day of work, but now it takes her 4 days.  On a side note, stubbornness does not seem to decline with age.

I guess it’s a good thing that people have more time in retirement because it takes a whole heck of a lot longer to get stuff done.  The good news is that if you’re relatively healthy, you can still do all the things you used to do when you were younger,  just at a different pace.

Respect Your Elders

So, my final thought is this. When your grandma or grandpa or any other retired person says “they’re busy” try not to belittle that fact and say “You’re retired, how can you be busy? You’ve got all day to do stuff.”  In many cases, it truly takes all day to get through the things they used to be able to do in just a few hours.

This observation that retired people don’t have as much free time as I thought because it takes longer to do things is a major revelation to me. It didn’t register in my mind until I saw the partially dug up sapling.  I don’t know how I didn’t see or realize this before now. Is this news to you too or are you more perceptive than I am?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Everyday Tips November 2, 2010 at 8:08 AM

I love the thought of Babci somehow folding a tree up into a suitcase- Go Babci!

What an interesting perspective. You are so right, it does take a heck of a lot longer for people to do certain tasks as they get older. I give Babci credit for not wanting to sit back while someone else takes care of everything for her.

I have often heard people get frustrated because a parent is too busy to help for one reason or another. The way I see it, parents have earned their retirement and they already spent a good chunk of their lives helping their children, so they deserve a break.


Money Reasons November 2, 2010 at 12:07 PM

Some of the older folk, I really have to hand it to them. I know some that look like they would have a difficult time getting things done, but the manage! Yes, it takes longer but they do it.

The kicker is, a lot of older folks have ailments on top of everything else! Knowing that a person has a bad back, diabetes, etc and still they are able to keep the house up is amazing!


Crystal November 2, 2010 at 1:51 PM

This hit me hard when my grandparents visited on Sunday. It takes my grandma (84) 2-3 minutes just to stand up. I’d offer to help but she’ll have none of that. 🙂


Aloysa November 2, 2010 at 3:06 PM

My grandmother is 85. She survived Stalin’s time, the WWII, hunger and much more. Sometimes I wonder if I would be able to handle as much as she did and come out as energetic and enthusiastic about life. Old people can teach us quite a few valuable life lessons. Great post!


Sandy L November 2, 2010 at 7:20 PM

Kris -The tree smuggling story is classic Babci. She’s always pulling stunts like that. I’m actually guilty of assuming my mom will drop everything for me and the kids, so I can’t be too judgmental. I’m also guilty of telling my mom not to complain about being busy when she’s retired. I’m a bad daughter, but I’m learning to see things from her perspective more and more.

Money Reasons and Aloysa – Yeah, I’m pretty scared about getting old. I think my life can be pretty tough sometimes trying to juggle it all. I can’t imagine going through what our parents/grandparents did. I also can’t imagine what it’s like to do stuff when my body is failing me. I know it was frustrating as hell for my uncle. He fought it til the very end though.

Crystal – your grandma sounds cool.


Invest It Wisely November 3, 2010 at 2:01 PM

Wow, she fit that in a suitcase?

My grandmother is also a spirited person, and it is sad to see that she is able to do less these days now that she is the same age as Babci but also recovered from a stroke. I am very glad she recovered, but I know that she misses the freedom of health that she had in the past. Still, her spirit has not diminished and it is that that keeps her going!


Squirrelers November 4, 2010 at 12:47 AM

You know, that’s a really good point you make there. It takes them longer to get things done when they’re older, thus they don’t have as much free time as many of us younger than them realize.

I’m all about respecting elders, so this post resonates with me on different levels. Good story!


annie November 4, 2010 at 6:40 AM

I was just having a similar conversation with my grandparents while visiting with them this weekend. They are 89 and in fantastic health (for 89). Both said that they are just as strong as they once were, but the main difference is that they have much less balance – this is why it takes so long to stand up and move around. The mind and body are still strong, but it just takes long to get it all coordinated. My parents are 67 and 74 so we do a lot of waiting for people to stand up 🙂 Its just how we roll these days! And I’m a runner, so there are days it takes me a little while to stand up, too!


Roshawn @ Watson Inc November 5, 2010 at 10:07 AM

I guess it is news to me that retired people don’t have as much time. I’m glad that she is so spirited and was so strong. I found myself laughing that she could do at 60 what a 220 pound guy couldn’t. I’m glad that at 77, she is still trying to get exercise and tending to her garden, kitchen, and laundry. Some people are simply impressive! It’s amazing the legacy that some elderly people leave.


Sandy L November 5, 2010 at 7:22 PM

Invest it – Yeah, she always smuggles plants from Poland. The tree was a new record though. You wouldn’t believe how big it was.

Squirreler + Roshawn – Okay I’m glad I’m not the only one who that the time thing was an ah-ha moment.

Annie – Babci blames her balance issues on her blood pressure meds. She’s always looking for excuses not to take her medication. I doubt she’ll believe me that this is an effect of aging.


Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom November 6, 2010 at 6:12 PM

My dad retired a couple of years ago from actively farming and still putting in 14 hour days during the busy season. He’s definitely gone downhill since – but then he is 90.

For inspiration, check out Morjorie Newlin – 86 years old at the time of this article:


Sandy L November 6, 2010 at 6:21 PM

JACQ – Wow. I’m not half her age and don’t look so good as Morjorie. My mom grew up on a farm. Farmers are just tougher than most. I hope my mom lives that long and stays active. That would be great.


Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom November 6, 2010 at 10:33 PM

I know! And that’s not even a good picture of her. It’s pretty sad that an 86 year old can beat this 45 year old hotness level. 🙂


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