Jeff Wallace

Jeff Wallace

Am I becoming my grandmother?

Physically, of course, that would not be the case. She was a petite lady who didn’t quite reach five feet. She would barely pass the height test for big rides at Kennywood Park in her hometown of Pittsburgh. Her weight didn’t quite make it to triple digits.

Grandma had silver hair (at least when I knew her, blonde when she was younger) and startling blue eyes that mesmerized.

I, on the other hand, am six feet tall and the numbers on the bathroom scale don’t begin to slow down until they are well past 100. I have muddy-colored eyes beneath graying hair, at least what is left of a mane that was once almost black.

Why do I feel I am becoming my grandmother? It’s all about temperature control.

The times our grandparents, Leah and John Forry, visited Aiken when I was a youngster, I would often find them sitting on folding chairs in the front yard as I returned home from school. Typically they would venture north from their retirement community in Florida in spring. On the balmiest of South Carolina days, Grandma was wearing a sweater.

It amused me to think that this lady who lived the first 60-plus years of her life in western Pennsylvania thought that Aiken’s springtime weather required a layer of wool on top of her other clothes. After all, my brothers and I were in our short-sleeved polo shirts and eager to don a pair of Bermuda shorts for the afternoon.

Fast forward a number of decades, and I now know how Grandma felt. Summer’s heat does not feel nearly as stifling as it used to, and air conditioned spaces with thermostats set to comfort levels for most folks feel like ice boxes to me.

My own home, which we typically keep between 72 and 74 degrees, sometimes sets a chill in my bones. The remedy is to go onto the back patio and feel the comfort of a warm blanket of humid South Carolina summer air.

This week while dining at a local restaurant with friends, I realized that I was uncomfortably cold. Only after going outside in 90-plus degree warmth did that feeling vanish, and the warm pre-Dorian breeze gave me relief from the refrigerated air.

It’s not uncommon for people as they age to have circulatory issues that cause them to be more susceptible to chilly air. But I always thought that was for old people until I realized that, under many definitions, that is where I am – old age.

It’s a harsh reality to discover that we are in a category once thought of as reserved for old codgers. In many ways, however, age is a matter of attitude. I’d always appreciated what my grandparents said as they visited shut-ins at their St. Petersburg community.

“We went and visited the old people,” Grandma would say of people who were in their 70s but couldn’t or wouldn’t get around. She and my grandfather were in their 90s at the time.

The image of Grandma sitting in the chair, working a crossword puzzle while wearing a sweater on an 80-degree afternoon sticks with me. Like Grandma, I now work a daily crossword puzzle, but I usually do it in the morning in a living room chair. But there is the ever-growing feeling that it won’t be long before I’ll be doing that with a sweater wrapped around my shoulders.

Jeff Wallace is a retired editor of the Aiken Standard.