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Badass Grandma

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This article was originally published on Better After 50.

What will you remember from the Sochi Olympics? Will it be the magic of Meryl Davis and Charlie White on the skating rink? Will it be Bode Miller's emotional breakdown with NBC reporter Christin Cooper? Will it be those three gorgeous young American men standing on the podium together accepting their medals for men's slope style skiing? Will it be Bob Costas' eye infection? The broken snowflake? The women's ice skating judging controversy?

I think I will remember Lorna Perpell, the Badass Grandma. She did nothing but show up for her granddaughter and wear a T-shirt, but for me, it struck a chord. It brought out a whole host of emotions about how important grandparents can be in their children's lives, how important it is to just show up, and how awesome it is to be a little bit feisty -- at any age.

Lorna Perpell, 78, is the grandmother of Maddie Bowman, 20, who won the gold medal in the new free skiing halfpipe. Perpell travelled to Sochi to watch her granddaughter compete; not an easy trip, not an inexpensive trip. When a radio host asked Maddie if she was close to her 78-year-old grandmother, she replied, "She's one Badass Grandma and I want to be like her when I grow up."

Soon after, the Badass Grandma T-shirt was revealed:

badass grandma

This picture made me smile for days. I have a special fondness for Badass Grandmas, and truly, I hope someday to be one (side note to my children: no rush -- I prefer you be married first -- and I cross my fingers that saying so doesn't automatically disqualify me).

The truth is, there are a lot of Badass Grandmas out there. They are the grandmas you see at the skating rink, on the ski slopes, at the theatre, in yoga class, on bike trips, showing and teaching their grandchildren how to get out and live an exciting life -- whether they are 4 or 84.

It just so happens I was sitting next to a Badass Grandma at a wine tasting last night. Together, Badass Grandma and I did the 7 S's: Saw, Sniffed, Swirled, Sipped, Swished, Spit and Slowed down (I actually skipped the last two because I am a Badass Wife whose husband had control of the badass car keys.) This very cool, white-haired, very accomplished Poet/Grandma, wearing some totally funky glasses and some really hip clothes, told me how her grandkids have an overnight with her and Grandpa once a week, how she takes them to school and picks them up, and recently took them to a nearby farm and a local museum. She reads to them all the time and buys them ice cream when they ask for it because, what the hell, she can.

"You are a Badass Grandma," I said.

"Indeed I am," she agreed.

My own grandma, Bubbie Lilly, was definitely NOT Badass.  She was an old-fashioned grandma. She made a mean chicken soup, she knitted baby sweaters and afghans, yelled at my grandfather for smoking cigars ("Get that sh*t-stick out of the house!"), wore proper Grannie lace-up shoes (you know what I am talking about, right?) and despite the supportive shoes, she seemed to shrink a little bit every year.

But what a difference a generation makes.

No one amazes me more than my own mother. She was, and still is, the ultimate Badass Grandma -- or Badass Bubbie, as she would prefer to be called -- which actually sounds even better, doesn't it? When my eldest was a little girl, she showed her how to do a split (I almost fainted as she slunk all the way down to the floor.) When my son was young, she took him out to woods near my house and taught him how to look under logs to find salamanders. When she saw he had no interest in learning his letters, she taught him his ABC's by using swear words (A is for ass, B is for bitch...) and by golly, he got it. When the kids fell, she'd wipe up the blood, give a little kiss and tell them to get over it. She read her grandchildren endless stories, took them to theatre, symphony, movies, to museums, for manicures and pedicures and taught them the art of flower arranging and how to write a nice thank-you note.

When my daughter became vegan, Badass Bubbie gave it a try too (she cheated with a kosher hot dog every so often, but who could blame her?) She took my nieces to their doctor and dentist appointments when their parents were both working. She would pick them up at birthday parties and not worry that she didn't know the neighborhood because the GPS was her friend. She took seven out of her nine grandchildren to see Big Ben and the Tower of London, and when she couldn't do it any longer for health reasons, she funded a trip so that I could take my youngest nieces. As a Badass Bubbie, she played tennis, went to spin class, then went for a swim (all by 11 a.m.).

Badass Bubbie has slowed down a bit these days. She's fighting a tough blood disease, having to get platelet transfusions every few days, fighting to keep up her energy. Still, she goes to every flute performance, every dance performance, every recital -- even when the recitals are an hour away -- and still hosts all the holidays because she wouldn't have it any other way. And I'd bet money she can still do a split, though it might kill her.

In the Grandma olympics, my mother deserves a gold medal in Badass.


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