In honor of the Oldest Persons Day- Better late than never!
06 October, 2011

I was driving my grandparents to a store and my grandmother was trying to tell me a joke. Did I know what a chicken sounded when it laid an egg, she had asked. I remembered a chicken coop my grandparents had in Gagra, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember the sound a hen made when it laid eggs. I don’t think I was ever concerned with that aspect of my breakfast. I remember what a rooster sounded like,

and I remember how much I hated going to the coop to try and take those eggs from their mothers, but I do not remember the hens making any sound but that of indignation. My grandmother tried to make the sound as she remembered it. It doesn’t translate on paper. She said that this sound was the sound that hens made in the past when they ate Georgian corn, but once they started eating foreign corn they started talking quite differently. My grandmother was laughing by now, but she finally managed to say what the new hen speak was all about. Apparently the joke was that while eating foreign corn the chickens laid so many eggs they started squawking ‘Oh my God’ instead of the classic squawk.
So what if I didn’t find it funny or even amusing? There are many instances where we find ourselves at a generation gap. In some instances we find ourselves in a gapping hole of a generation gap, completely lost in translation. I used to argue, I used to get really annoyed, but lately I have given up. Older and wiser I now just listen and nod. There is no changing a person’s point of view at eighty something. As it is with everything lse on this earth, there are exceptions to this rule. Some people are adaptable and age is not an issue for them, or to quote Aaliyah, a singer who passed away too young ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number’. There are people like Rebecca Kadi and Gertrude Bains, who both at the age of 115 went to vote in Sudan’s Referendum and the in the US Presidential elections in 2008, respectively. (Gertrude Bans, daughter of a slave has since died, happy to had been able to live long enough to vote for a black president).  At their age they were still engaged in their surroundings, in the lives of their friends and families, and the only problem they seemed to have was arthritis of the knees. These people, and people like them who can learn languages at any age, who can pick up new technologies, acclimate to new cultures and politics, are very lucky indeed. They can make their lives relevant by relating to the outside world. Majority of people are not born so fortunate. I found that in Georgia there is a persistent feeling that once a person retires from their job, once their children are all grown up that then they are useless to the society. I had a relative who used to say she was just waiting to die. She would go to sleep in the afternoons and lay there with her arms and hands folded on her chest as they would be if she were in a coffin. I suspect it wasn’t just death she was waiting for. She waited for her grown children and grandchildren to come home and freak out. One time she overdid it and almost caused her son a heart attack. When asked why she was doing this, she’d state matter of fact, ‘what else is there for me now?’ She was a picture of pessimism. But unlike her, my Grandmother is a bowl of cheerfulness. Sometimes that bowl can be filled with crazy, but even then she is never boring.
As we drove on, my grandmother started to get hot in the car. Every time we stopped at a stoplight she would start complaining about the little man who didn’t switch the lights fast enough to green. (As I said, sometimes, the bowl is full of crazy.) What little men, I asked. ‘You know’, she said, ‘the one who makes the chicken go ‘Oh My GOD”. She looked at me very seriously, and I started thinking, oh nuts, here it comes, she has finally lost it, when she started to laugh.  Apparently she was upset that the chicken joke didn’t make me smile the first time, so she tried it again. Her laughter was contagious.
I don’t care what chickens sound like when they Georgian corn or when they eat foreign corn. I am just glad my Grandmother is still able to laugh at silly jokes.