Bikram has a very famous saying, “Never too old, never too bad, never too late, never too sick to start from scratch once again.” All Bikram teachers, and most regular practitioners know this saying and hopefully try to abide by the idea. New beginnings are always possible.
In December my grandmother died. She was 96. Until about a year before she died, she was pretty lucid. Grandma, or GiGi, as my daughter and her cousins called her, was not a flexible woman. Raised in North Dakota by Danish immigrant parents, she was a by-the-book conservative. Grandma majored in home economics in college and was tough on diet and physique. Grandma was wholly concerned with appearance both physically and socially. Once in my teens when the fashion among my clique was to wear men's pajamas to school, she hid me behind a large potted fern to take my photo so that just my head peeked out. At Grandma's house in Fargo, we did all kinds of crazy stuff that never happened in our bohemian-oriented, liberal house in Chicago. We made our beds, said grace before dinner, vacuumed the Oldsmobile, ate beef.
My grandfather was also conservative, a small-town doctor and 100% republican. But Grandpa somehow tempered Grandma's strictness. When my grandfather was alive, he would tease Grandma about her rigidness, "C'mon Sally, let'm have a big scoop of ice cream." My grandfather died when Grandma was in her late fifties and I think that might have made her tighten her rules-belt even more. When she visited us in Chicago, she organized my drawers and my closet, bought me Lanz of Salzberg nightgowns to replace the oversized t-shirts and underwear I slept in, and spent lots of time in the kitchen, scrutinizing the bizarre goings on..... the wok, the rugged butcher block table my family gathered around, the half-open bottles of wine. As a teenager, I always stressed out a bit before visits with Grandma. Would she like my outfit? My haircut? Once I became a parent, I stopped worrying so much. Grandma became GiGi. She loved being a great-grandmother. The focus was now off of me and placed lovingly onto my then tiny daughter who could really do nothing to offend GiGi at her young age.
When GiGi was in her eighties she got remarried to John. John had been a close friend of the family for years and after his wife Florence died, he and Grandma hooked up. John, unlike my republican physician grandfather, was a former academic, and a democrat. Grandma was totally smitten with John. She would coo, "Isn't he clever?" And he was. John published word puzzles that he'd distribute all over their retirement community, doing his part to stimulate his sharp mind and keep all the other old brains fresh. John mellowed Grandma out a lot. She was so in love, so tickled to be in a stimulating partnership, to find romance (again) this late in life, that she stopped really caring about what anyone else was doing. It was a joy to visit the newlyweds at their little apartment in Sun City, Arizona. They were truly happy.
In 2008, when Barak Obama was running for president, Grandma shocked us all by voting for him. My grandmother's first democratic vote, our first African American President, at the age of 92! Growing up, I remember hearing the adage, "s/he's too old to change" about people far younger, and far less rigid than Grandma. Sometimes when I'm teaching I tell this story about Grandma voting democratic. I watch people following their same old habits (we all have them). "If my republican Grandma can vote for Barak Obama at the age of 92, you can resist wiping your brow in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee!" Never too old. Never too bad. Never too late. Never too sick. Cheers to Grandma!