If you’re ever in a situation like mine, do NOT tell your daughter you have a few days free before your winter schedule of activities begin. I did, and I paid!

My so-called free days were a recent Friday and Saturday; I was already babysitting for her that Saturday night, so I was looking forward to catching up on some things before the following Monday when my busyness started.

On Thursday, while confirming my babysitting time, I mentioned I was free until then. I think I even said it felt good to finally have a block of free time.

Mistake. My two free days were free for less than five minutes. A flurry of texts followed: I could volunteer to serve lunch with her at my grandchildren’s school on Friday, we could do a salt therapy session after serving lunch, I could try a Pilates strength and balance session with her on Saturday morning, and oh, by the way, there’s an intro class today (Thursday) in three hours to the Pilates class that would be helpful to have before the Saturday class.

What do you think I did?

For starters, I rushed my dinner and attended the intro Pilates class. A big deal because not much gets me off my couch in the evening. There was one other participant, young. When the instructor asked us if we had any health concerns he should know about before we started, she piped up, “None.” I said, “Well, I’ve lived a few more years…”

Then, in the two and a half years I’ve lived near our daughter and family, I’ve managed to avoid serving lunch at the school. Just because she loves to, doesn’t mean I have to. However, I reluctantly agreed and informed her that would be my volunteering for the year.

Some history here: In December she talked me into volunteering to make cookies at the school. I stood for FOUR hours rolling out stiff chilled dough and then used cookie cutters to make a thousand huge trays of cookies. The muscles in my lumbar and popliteal areas screeched, “Never again.” My daughter forgets I’m older than when we lived in the same city over eight years ago.

Ha ha ha!

At the school, the kitchen staff and other volunteers were super friendly. I could see why my daughter loves to go. They even let me choose what I wanted to serve; I picked the simplest thing—half bananas in their peelings. No dealing with wobbly Jello for me or counting out carrots; younger kids got fewer. I was very impressed as dozens of kids came through the line responding “Please” or “No, thank you” to my humble offering of bananas.

Three generations!

Or course the highlight was seeing my grandkids eyes light up when they saw me.  The seven-year-old did a double-take, then smiled at me and shouted to the boy next to him: “THAT’S my grandma.” (He never said hi to me…) And my nine-year-broke into an “Are you for real?” grin when she spotted me and came into the kitchen with her friend to say hi after eating.

I loved the payoff too: we could eat there. Famished from standing about two hours, I gobbled down pizza, carrots, two of my half bananas, and a healthy portion from the salad bar. Plus chocolate milk. My daughter wondered if I’d eaten lately. Not so far-fetched since my husband was my cook for over fifty years before his death last July.

Afterward, the salt therapy room at the delightfully clean and quietly decorated Sauna Haus provided just the right cleansing and relaxing feeling a grandma needs when her aches are aching and her stomach is overcrowded. The cinnamon spice tea soothed as a postlude.

The next morning, the Pilates strength and balance session threatened to publicize my couch preference. Of the 10-12 women circling the top of a Bosu (half-dome) ball in stocking feet, I was the only one to hang on to the steadying bar. Clearly, I have no strength and no balance. I won’t return; an older woman has a right to maintain her dignity.

So happy to go home!

But, as Henry Makepeace Thackeray said, “Revenge may be wicked, but it’s natural.” So my naturalness surfaced. Read on. I’d ordered a black steel rolling bookcase that I thought I’d be able to put together. Marv had always made my bookcases, but now, since I wanted another, I had to figure out something on my own.

First of all, potential hernias got a workout while I zigzagged the heavy box from outside over the threshold to the hallway. I let its heavy verticality slide down my hip and leg to the floor (like I’d been taught to slide a patient down the front of me from a bed in case of fire.) After slashing the stiff tape on the box with a kitchen knife, I discovered eight heavy steel pieces and 37 screws. I felt faint instantly and hobbled to bed.

The next morning, I texted my daughter. And here’s the result:

And here’s the “after” photo of the wall in my study, the new black steel bookshelves sitting cozily next to one of the ladder bookcases Marv made for me.

Now, I’m waiting for said daughter to show up to help me hang my new abstract print, a “cityscape” on canvas that gently reminds me of the eleven happy years Marv and I lived downtown Chicago before moving to Sioux Falls.

I think someone also said, “Everything evens out in the end.” So tell your daughter whatever you want, but don’t say I didn’t warn you…