Relevant in its time


By Betty Slade

I turned 80 years old this week. I wonder if my many, many days have any contemporary relevance in this fast-changing world. How absurd to think this broken-down body can still function in a world of new shiny objects and sought-after hotshots.

Reductio ad absurdum (reduction to absurdity) fits this idea. What is it that we have that makes us relevant? The answer is simple. If we are needed, we are relevant to somebody and must continue to push forward until we take our last breath.

An inspiration to me is Grandma Moses. At 77 years old, her arthritic fingers prevented her from holding an embroidery needle. Her infirmity didn’t hold her back, however. She turned to painting watercolors. And, at 101 years of age, with paint under her fingernails, she made her last stroke with her watercolor brush before drawing her last breath.

Her 100th birthday was proclaimed “Grandma Moses Day” by New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. President John F. Kennedy memorialized her: “The death of Grandma Moses removed a beloved figure from American life. The directness and vividness of her paintings restored a primitive freshness to our perception of the American scene. Both her work and her life helped our nation renew its pioneer heritage and recall its roots in the countryside and on the frontier.”

An image of one of her paintings is on the 1969 U.S. postage stamp. That same imagine, re-creating a Fourth of July celebration, is part of the White House archives today. She also has work hanging in several museums. A $10 painting at the beginning of her career was auctioned for $60,000.

In 1961, the year of her death, her children’s book, “Grandma Moses Story Book,” was published. This little old farm lady was needed for our nation. She was relevant in her own time. 

I looked out into our driveway where our 1995 Toyota 4Runner sits. It has a banged-up front end and rust growing on its fenders. Although it is worn out, it’s too valuable to take to the bone yard because it is still needed.

Even with its slow-moving parts and sluggish uptakes, this old clunker is part of the family. It has given us a great run and brought us many miles of adventure and enjoyment. It rattles in the dead of winter, but is our go-to to pull us out of the snow and get us back and forth to town. Even an old clunker such as this can have its own relevance.

When my Sweet Al and I look at each other, we can agree on one thing. We’ve both seen better-looking days. A fall brought me to my knees and I’m not walking so straight these days. I’m sure we look like hell and back, but it’s the heart that keeps beating that keeps us going and needed by those who love us. 

A recent trip to the chiropractor helped me understand that my best years are still ahead me, even if my bones are stiff. After all, I still need them. When the lady turned my neck and cracked it, I felt like she had snapped me in two. I asked her, “Do you know what you’re doing? You could’ve broken my neck.”

The indignant therapist said she had been doing her job for more than 12 years and knew exactly what she was doing. I told her that these bones have been carrying me for 80 years. While they may be brittle, I still need my neck in order to turn my head.

With that, I sat up, picked up my purse and headed out the door. I felt like Grandma Moses learning a new craft. Or, maybe like I had just put new brakes on old tires. These new-fangled ways are not compatible with this old body. 

Final brushstroke: Like an old 4Runner, or the needler turned artist, sometimes we have to live a lifetime before we find our purpose. It’s there where relevancy finds us, regardless of the change in time where we find ourselves. 

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