I hope the answer is no, otherwise you would most likely be reading this from the other side. The Titanic sunk on April 14th 1912 but amazingly I know one person still living who remembers when the great ship went down, my daughter’s great grandmother Dorothy Kinder. Hopefully because my daughter Eva has a great gran she won’t think the Titanic was just a movie. It was Mrs. Kinder’s 105th birthday on Monday; born on January 13th 1909 she was a few months older than three when the Titanic sank. I too remember being three but it was in 1979, a bygone era but not quite as bygone as 1912, that’s even bygone for the current season of Downton Abbey.
Great Gran as we affectionately call her, remembers a friend of her mother’s arriving unannounced at their house to tell her the news of the ship sinking and she remembers it not because the unsinkable Titanic struck an iceberg drowning most of its passengers, but because in 1912 no one just rocked up to your house unannounced, you made appointments and your presence was announced. If you didn’t have a butler you pretended you did unless you found out the Titanic sunk, then you broke all rules of decorum and rushed house to house to spread the news. This is what she remembers: a change of routine.
My very humble and sad comparison is when Mommy puts makeup on and Eva starts to cry because she knows that means Mommy is actually leaving the house for a change and that creature called a babysitter is coming which happens so infrequently Eva treats her the same way as if her house was invaded by the Gruffalo or the evil pigeon that steals little children’s bread.
Daddy on the other hand is so accustomed to the “natural” look that the first time I put makeup on after having Eva about a year or two later, he screamed in shock as he came into the bathroom right as I was putting on my lipstick which I then smudged into my foundation with my unpracticed hand.
“ Oh My God” he said, “What did you do with my wife?”
“Not funny” I replied.
“You look like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.”
It wasn’t really what I was hoping for as a comparison to my idol Bette Davis but in some self-deceiving way it was flattering and it made me laugh. Chris can always make me laugh even if he is taking me down a peg or two in the process. I hope he is still making fun of me when we are really old but something tells me I will have forgotten about the existence of lipstick by then.
What is truly amazing about Eva’s Great Grandmother is that she still wears makeup at 105, she gets her hair done, she dresses up, in new clothes and jewelry. Great Gran paints and she even lived by herself up until a few years ago. Living on her own only ended when she fell and hit her head, suffered a bleed on the brain, had brain surgery, and was not expected to survive. We flew over to the U.K. to say goodbye to her and when we got to the hospital after a red eye flight and several hours more of public transportation she was up reading the paper in bed, and greeted us with a cheery surprised, “What are you doing here!” We should have known this would happen, after she was run over by a car when she was in her 80s, and broke her back she bounced back to then go on Safari and visit us in Bermuda several times. Great Gran of course, survived this most recent bump on the head, the brain surgery and went on to lead a full normal life in a lovely retirement home, only because she lost a bit of her short term memory but who wants to remember the headlines when they can tell you about the Titanic. Great Gran also remembers when World War One began, in a sense her memories of childhood are memories of change, and she has seen an awful lot of it in over a century.
Last year when we brought Eva to see her in the summer, she asked us,
“So how many years are there between us, Eva and I?”
“About a hundred?” she guessed.
“A hundred and three years” we answered.
“My goodness, funny thing time,” she said.
“Oh to be her age and to have it all ahead of me, I would love to be her age again.”
Great Gran said as they rocked side by side in two rocking chairs together for a few moments but separated by several lifetimes in experience. It was a moment I will never forget. Being a millennial I whipped out my Iphone but being a Derelict Mom it had run out of battery so I dug out my point and shoot and I took a photo but the card was corrupted and the picture like the moment is now lost to time.
We were all thinking, “Oh to be Great Gran’s age and to have seen the things she has seen.”
It’s a rare thing to live over a hundred. Evidently if you live over 100 you probably have something called a longevity gene. I am pretty sure Great Gran has one of those. If you ask her, she credits her longevity on,
I personally would give credit where credit is due— it’s the lipstick — in other words it’s her attitude, her zest for life, for new experiences, appreciation of the daily beauties of life. Eva brought Great Gran a posy of sweet peas, which she put in a vase in her room, before we went out for lunch.
“Oh these are so gorgeous, I must paint them,” she said.
At the restaurant, my mother in law and I ordered chicken salads, my husband had the fish and chips, and Great Gran, she had:
Cheesy potato skins and a pint of beer.
When they brought out the pint of beer they put it down in front of me. I laughed and pointed at Great Gran.
“It’s for her.”
She used to eat salmon but after she turned 100 she decided to splurge. Moderation? The heck with that. Did I say how much I love Great Gran! I really have two idols, Great Gran and Bette Davis.
On her 105th birthday she had a party at the retirement home and the local newspaper came and photographed the family. I include the link to the article below and a few pictures of Great Gran.
I can say I am overjoyed that my Eva has had the pleasure of meeting her Great Gran, bringing them together feels like the future touching the past, especially as I know my little Eva has inherited much of Great Gran’s tenacity of spirit, and perhaps just perhaps a longevity gene that will be marveled at in a century to come.
When I think of Great Gran and I think of my own mother and her constant nagging about my appearance, and I think you know maybe they are right maybe I should put on makeup more often, but then you know I wouldn’t be me, Eva’s derelict mother.
To the Unsinkable Great Gran! Happy 105th Birthday !