(*** With a slow sports weekend ahead and many folks heading out of the office early today, I wanted to do something a little different here for the Memorial Day Weekend and rather than write some new material, instead re-run an old article straight from my archives.
And with my grandma- the love of my life- celebrating her 96th birthday on Thursday, now seemed like as good a time as ever, to re-publish the article I wrote about her two years ago, on her 94th birthday. Now two years older, my grandma is pretty much the same. She moves a tiny bit slower sure, the same wit and wisdom I describe in the article is still alive and well today.
Regardless, here is my old, new column: A Tribute to One of My Biggest Inspirations. Enjoy, and please excused the outdated Magic-Celtics, Joe Paterno and “The Hills” references.
Have a nice holiday weekend!)
To some of you regular readers, I know you think of me as some crazed, bizarre, sports lunatic. A guy who falls asleep with West Coast baseball games on, and wakes up to replays of Sportscenter in the morning. A guy who watches classic college football games for "fun," reads passages from old Sports Illustrated's when he's bored, and even flips on the India-Pakistan cricket match when there's nothing else on TV. Well, with the exception of the cricket, you'd be right (Ok, ok, I watched cricket, but it was just ONE time. I swear!).
However, beyond that though, I'm a relatively normal guy, that does the same stuff everybody does. I go to the mall and hang out with my buddies. I play pick-up basketball and hit the driving range every once in awhile. And despite what internet rumors might be out there, yes I even put my pants on one leg at a time. Even if it took me until I was eight to totally figure out how.
Anyway, being a sportswriter, I'm sure many of you assume that I spent this past Monday watching either Game 4 of the Magic-Celtics series, or the opener of a three game Red Sox sweep of the first place Rays. Actually though, I was doing my normal guy routine at a birthday party.
Now before we go any further, I know what you're thinking, and no this wasn't one of those "Brody Jenner on The Hills," type birthday parties, I promise. There were no crazy antics or binge drinking, and truthfully, there weren't even presents exchanged.
Why no presents?
Well, I was at my grandma's 94th birthday party, and honestly, what do you get a 94-year-old that has it all? A Nintendo Wii?
That's right, my grandma was born May 24, 1916, meaning that not only is she a living, breathing history book, but also my own real life Forrest Gump. Someone who was front and center for a lot of stuff that I'd normally need to turn on Channel 461 on my local cable system to learn about.
My grandma was born right as World War I ended, and in the subsequent years lived through World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War, not to mention the invasion of Iraq by two separate George Bush's.
She was there for the entire Civil Rights Movement from beginning to end, and was a ripe 52-years-old when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assasinated. It's easy to forget though, that she was just about to be a teenager when he was born too.
She's old enough to remember the Dewey Decimal system, as well as when Dewey defeated Truman, and was in her mid '30's when Joe Paterno graduated as a football player from Brown. That was just a few years before he went on to be the rambling, wandering, bespectacled 83-year-old on the Penn State sideline that we all know and love today.
If you want to go way back in my grandma's memory bank, it wasn't until she was 3-years-old that the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, meaning that if the "Curse of the Bambino," really did exist, she outlived it. And oh, for my large feminist readership out there, women didn't earn the right to vote until right before my grandma turned four. Think about that.
The historical event that my grandma most affiliates herself with though, is the Great Depression.
As I approach my 25th birthday (Presents still being accepted!), I recently asked her how she spent her's.
She thought about it for a second, got quiet and said, "Ohh, it was right at the end of the Depression. I probably didn't do much."
Well, it's official: I'm an idiot.
As I sit here approaching a quarter of a century on this big blue marble, my worst day is when the Red Sox blow a four run lead in the ninth inning. Tough life, huh? My grandma spent her early and mid 20's washing her work clothes every single night, because she could only afford one blouse and one skirt. Truthfully, she considers herself lucky to have had a job at all.
But don't worry, I didn't write this to make you feel pity for anyone, mainly because my grandma is the last person to feel pity on herself. She worked in a school for the better part of her life, put two kids through college (and one through law school) and saw her two grandkids do the sameIn between, she decided to take some college courses of her own in her '70's, making up for some lost time in her 20's.
You know how people say that every time Michael Jordan walks in a room, the whole place stops? My grandma is the Michael Jordan of my life. She's impossible not to love, always laughing, and even at 94, remains one of the most funny and quotable people I've ever met. Which is no small feat, considering I've spent time with Bill Walton and Jim Calhoun amongst others in the last year and change. She's more animated than either of them.
Sometimes she spits out wisdom, like the time I asked her a few years back how it felt to be 90. Her response? "I don't feel any different than 89. But honestly, I don't like the number." Well then.
Other times she cracks jokes, like this past Monday, when her friend apologized for forgetting to call on her birthday, even though it was written on the calendar.
"I told her to look at her damn calendar every once in awhile," my grandma said, before cracking a smile.
And of course, like every other 94-year-old, she has her senior moments, although they're fewer and far between than most her age. My personal favorite came this past Thanksgiving, when I was watching a college football game, and ESPN analyst Mark May came on the screen. As usual, my grandma came through with the line of the night "Oooo, I like his beard. I wonder who designed it?" All these months later, I'm still smiling just thinking about it.
(Update: On her 96th birthday on Thursday, my grandma told me: "Aaron, you very pretty ears." I'm not entirely sure entirely what that means, but feel like these are things you need to know. And yes ladies, I'm single!)
Speaking of Mark May, since this is supposed to be a sports column, I should probably mention that my grandma is also the biggest 94-year-old, female sports fan I know. (Take that Mildred from down the street!).
She was married to a huge Yankees fan (My grandfather) for most of her adult life, and is still aware of what's going on in the world of sports, with every phone call to me starting with, "Are you watching the ball game?"
On Monday night I was absolutely floored when she asked me two sports related questions, proving that her mind is as sharp as ever at 94.
"How is Torre doing out in L.A.?"
Followed a few minutes later by, "You think this Epstein guy is in trouble in Boston?" Maybe it's because he's the nice Jewish boy she's eyeing for my sister, I don't know. But after her second comment, I had to excuse myself from the table. To pick my jaw up off the ground.
Surprisingly, besides her baseball acumen, I find myself realizing more and more every day that I'm a lot like her, which I know is probably a wee bit surprising to you.
The reason that my grandma believes she's stayed young all these years is because she keeps herself busy. Always moving, washing clothes, making beds, whatever. She's the only person I know who cleans up after her cleaning lady leaves the house. She hasn't slept in, in who knows how long. And whenever I call her in the morning, her day is always booked. No idle time, no TV breaks, just go, go, go. Maybe with a nap mixed in every once in awhile. I mean after all, come on, the lady is 94!
I'm the same way. I'm the most easy going Type A personality you'll ever meet. I freak out before bed if I don't have every minute of my next day planned out. I can't adjust my schedule on the fly. I handle having unforeseen free time about as well as Ben Roethlisberger handles a bar full of 19-year-old coeds. I get it from my grandma.
Hell, as I write this piece, we are approaching a holiday weekend, with most people reacting to work like they're allergic, and counting down the seconds until they can leave their offices for the beach. But here I am typing away, probably because I'm too stupid to know any better. Somewhere a few miles away, my guess is that my grandma is making her lunch, washing clothes or gabbing on the phone, but definitely not sitting twiddling her thumbs. To quote the movie Black Sheep, "I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Or should I say...nut."
Regardless, I know my grandma is keeping busy somewhere, maybe checking in on her favorite Theo Epstein blog or something. I'm kidding of course, as she knows as much about computers as I do about crocheting, and will need someone to print this article out for her. I just hopes she does take a few minutes to read it, although if I know her, she'll get a third of the way through, before remembering she's got to put clothes in the dryer or start cooking dinner. I guess I can't blame her, I'd probably do the same.
Either way, I just want to take this space to say one last time: Happy 94th birthday Bubbie, you're the best.
Sorry I didn't get you a present this year, but they were out of Ninento Wii's at the store.
I hope this will do.
Also for his continued take on all things sports, and updates on his articles, podcasts and giveaways, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook.com/AaronTorresSports or by downloading the Aaron Torres Sports App for FREE for your iPhone or Android Phones)
And finally, Aaron has written his first book! It's called The Unlikeliest Champion, it's about the 2011 UConn Huskies National Championship team. It is available for order in Kindle or paperback at both www.uconnbook.com and Amazon.com. Get your order in today!)