The long summer nights seemed to go on forever. I laid on the cot placed out for me, clothed only in a small child's t-shirt and panties, feeling uncomfortable sweat rolling down my body from my hair to my toes. Humidity took July summer nights on an East Texas oil lease and made 104 evening temps feel like 120. The house was not only thick with summer heat, but also from attitudes of the residents. Fear didn't grow just from the heat and the mosquitoes which accompanied our trips to my grandparents (once they counted over 102 mosquito bites on me when a screen was left off a window at night), but it was mostly fear of the woman we called Maw-Maw. She daily raged into the front room, after my younger brothers and I crossed her lines, with wild gray hair pointing to the sky, a long apron choking her waist, and frantically swinging a broom. In my 8-year-old mind, she might as well have been yelling, "I'll get you, my pretty!!" The scene had everything but flying monkeys.
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you I learned how to age gracefully from the women in my life. Both grandmothers and my mother were embittered by family alcoholics, abuse, and pain. They all were the stereotypical "mean old ladies." People you want to run from because they suck the air right out of you. However, it is their role modeling and emotional abuse which sent me in a different direction; because, I so did not want to be anything like them. We all go through hard times; it is what we do with those lessons which chart our course.
I dreaded any trips to either of the grandparents' houses; anger seeped out of every crevice. The women in my life chose to become victims and allow circumstances to destroy their lives. Anger can be a very selfish emotion, especially when you use it to harm those around you. At times when I feel this selfish anger rising inside of me, I look in the mirror, see my mother and then hear her words. That usually snaps me back into reality.
I really am not a fan of the phrase "Aging Gracefully." We are all aging from the moment we slide out the birth canal. However, instead of aging gracefully, I choose to "Live Joyfully" ...out loud and with contentment. I decided a long time ago not be a victim. Despite any challenges which may come my way -- and they do come -- I choose to live one day at a time with joy. There is something to laugh about every day. There is something to rejoice in every day. We now know from medical studies those who laugh and enjoy life will often live longer, even with terminal cancers. Dr. Terry Grossman writes, "Other studies have shown that laughter can decrease stress, increase pain tolerance, reduce depression and improve quality of life." It is never too late to bury anger and replace it with a rock solid determination to enjoy yourself however remaining days you have on this earth. Now, I realize some reading this will be turned off by my "Pollyanna" attitude and think with disgust, that there is no way I understand your circumstances.
Trust me... I do understand. You can sit there embittered and dry up, or make a choice today to LIVE...,really live. Life goes so fast. We can try every anti-aging product on the market, but, let's face it; nothing stops the process, no matter what we do. My pastor honored his mother on her 90th birthday in a sermon. She was sitting in the audience at the time. I found myself at first very jealous that he grew up in a household which was fun, joyful, educational, challenging and all about serving others. At 90 years of age, I saw an independent woman who still lived in her own home, drove a car, shopped, lunched with girlfriends and loved her freedom. She was the fun grandma with a door wide open and a welcoming place where her grandchildren loved to go. Not a mean old woman, but a vibrant youthful one.
I want my grandchildren to love coming to my house. I want them to feel safe and secure sleeping there. I want to be the captivating Glenda pointing their hearts toward home and not the mean old Wicked Witch of the West embittered by what life did not give me. I choose to live joyfully for however long I am here turn on the air conditioner in summer and avoid mosquitoes whenever possible!
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