To anyone with a sweet spot in your heart for grandparents, you’ll love the following story.
This was written by Nataly Kogan, author of the new book Happier Now…
YOU’RE ALIVE. DRESS UP FOR IT.
“Natashenka, maybe a little lipstick and blush would be good,” said my grandpa as we sat in the family room of the rehab center where he was recovering.
He was 91 years old and had just had surgery.
He was staying at the same rehab center where my grandma, to whom he has been married for 67 years, had lived for the past two years after suffering a terrible stroke.
My husband, daughter, and I went to see him two days after his surgery.
He was standing outside the elevators and greeted us as soon as the doors opened.
He was wearing a button down shirt with a tie, a sweater vest, and slacks.
Holding onto his walker, he led us to the family room so we could all sit and talk.
“Sorry, deda, I was just coming from yoga,” I replied, smiling, “I promise next time I will look better.”
“Good,” he said, approvingly, and went on to tell us about how when he was a lawyer in Russia he never lost a case.
My grandpa always tells stories and I’ve heard hundreds, but somehow not this one.
I wasn’t an ounce offended that he told me I would look better with makeup. It wasn’t his intention to offend me.
He simply believes that you should always try to look your best and that you should put in a little effort to look your best always – at work, at home, at the rehab center following surgery.
My grandpa has never come to dinner — at our house, restaurant, or my grandparents’ apartment — without wearing a shirt and a tie.
Often he has a pocket square tucked neatly into the shirt pocket and likes to wear sweater vests, but only if they are thin enough.
His hair is thinning but he carries a small comb, which he uses to keep it neat, always.
And he always smells really good.
It’s almost like for him, every day is a celebration. A celebration of nothing more or less than being alive and being able to have this day, whatever it’s like.
Before my grandma had her stroke and had to move to the rehab center, my grandparents would have dinner together every night.
My grandma cooked while grandpa set the table: white tablecloth, small vase of flowers, folded napkins, the good silverware.
Dinner with my grandparents was always a special occasion — back in Baku, where they lived and where I spent every summer growing up, in Ann Arbor, in their tiny kitchen in the projects where they lived, or in Boston, in their small kitchen/living room.
They used their most beautiful dishes, always served multiple courses, and watched over all of us carefully to make sure we ate enough.
Arguing was futile.
We would sit and eat for hours.
Meals were an event, even regular dinners during the week.
For him, anything that involves family or friends is a special occasion, however casual or small. And when you have a special occasion, you dress up for it.
When we know we will see my grandpa, the three of us — kiddo, my husband and I — do an outfit check to make sure we’re looking festive enough.
My husband usually wears a blazer or at least a collared shirt, kiddo picks out one of her going out outfits and puts something sparkly in her hair, and I try to avoid anything that looks too edgy or strange.
My grandpa is a fan of more classical styles and I am more than happy to curtail my preference for funkier outfits when I see him.
“Did you know that dress is not cut evenly in the back?” he once told me when I wore a dress I’d just gotten on our trip to Spain.
It was made by a company called Skunkfunk – the name kind of says it all — and did, in fact, have a longer length in the back than the front.
“I hope you got it on sale, because they really screwed up how they cut it,” said grandpa.
Mental note: No more dresses with asymmetrical seams when I’m with grandpa.
“Mama, don’t forget some lipstick,” kiddo reminded me recently, as we drove up to pick him up for dinner at our house.
“Right!” I said, as I rummaged in my bag for my lipstick, grateful that I had it with me.
I’d had a long day a work, it was raining outside, and the traffic had been brutal.
I’m always happy to see my grandpa, but I was exhausted and kind of wishing we were doing our dinner on a different night.
But as soon as I put on some lipstick – and blush, while I was at it – I’d perked up.
I felt this warmth swirl through me, this extra shot of energy and appreciation for having grown up with my grandparents, both sets of them, as such a close part of my life, and of being able to drive with my daughter to pick up my grandpa for dinner at our house.
There was a lot to celebrate just then and the lipstick was simply a tiny sprinkle to top it off.
In her debut book, HAPPIER NOW, Nataly Kogan reminds you to stop saying, “I’ll be happy when . . .” and start saying, “I’m happy now because . . .”.
Drawing from science, Eastern traditions, her experience as a refugee from the Soviet Union, and her own failing search to find lasting happiness through career success, Nataly shares simple practices to help readers live happier and have greater resilience when times get tough.