During periods of struggle in my life, my maternal grandmother has been my lighthouse. She has endured many hardships during her 94 years and each one has caused her to embrace life with even more passion and vigor. She showed me from a very young age that although you cannot always change your circumstances, you can always change your attitude.
I’ve always identified with my grandmother; we have similar wiring that causes us to think (and often over think!) through problems, planning every little detail. This means that we’re always prepared, but it also can create needless worry about things that may never occur. We are both driven by a hunger to know more, understand more. And we both have a memory that is both a blessing and a curse, that retains and replays every life scene.
Her lessons make me laugh, as they never come in the expected form of words from a grandmother to a child. Her wisdom is transmitted through quips and actions that reveal the astuteness beneath. Here are a few of her pearls and the gifts beneath.
When I was in second grade, I was assigned a project to collect and identify seeds from several different trees. As an overachiever, I was not content to simply utilize the trees around my home in Texas, so I asked my grandmother to send me some from Wisconsin. A few days later, I opened an envelope with an assortment of seeds and a handwritten piece of paper detailing their origin. I promptly glued those seeds along with their southern relatives on a piece of poster board, labeled each find and turned it in. I was done. But grandma was just getting started. For the next three years, I would periodically receive an envelope filled with more seeds. I don’t think she stopped until she had collected genetic material from every tree in the state.
One of my favorite memories of my grandmother is from a visit when I was a teenager. All of the cousins were present on this visit and the decision was made (probably for sanity’s sake) for the entire family to go to the water park. I assumed my grandmother, who was around 80 at the time, would elect to stay home or, at the very least, stay with the bags and the baby while the rest of us tackled the slides. I could not have been more wrong. There is something about the sight of an 80-year-old woman squealing with joy beneath her flowered swim cap going down a water slide that makes everyone smile.
I first moved in with my ex husband when we were just 19. I was nervous about my grandmother’s reaction. And shocked when I received it. One day, mere weeks after moving in, I received an envelope with a check for $200 (a fortune to two 19-year-olds just starting out) and a note that read, “This is a gift in stages for a marriage in stages.”
I think my grandmother could probably secure a job as a presidential advisor. No, seriously. She craves knowledge like a retriever follows a tennis ball. When mobility issues started to keep her home more, she found ways to bring the world to her. It’s not unusual for her to know about a weather event or other news story in my area before I do. Even though she has never been able to visit me in my 15 years in Atlanta, give her a map and she could plot every place I’ve ever lived and worked. Let’s just say we should all be appreciative she uses her powers for good, not evil.
I have always been a rule follower. My grandmother is a rule breaker. No need to alert the police, she doesn’t speed or jaywalk or anything of that nature. But she also doesn’t let other’s rules box her in. Women aren’t supposed to do that? Hogwash. I’m too old? Watch this. Oh, I’m not supposed to think that way? Tough. At times, she has faced consequences for her actions, but she doesn’t waver.
I made a trek to Wisconsin mere weeks after Brock and I started dating. When I saw his picture on my grandmother’s fridge, I was a bit startled. It seemed too soon; I wasn’t sure this guy deserved a place among the family yet. “Don’t worry,” my grandmother replied to my inquisition with a smile, “It’s not up there with glue.”
My grandmother has nursed enough people to earn an honorary RN. She has survived the death of two husbands. She kept her family going through the depression and other hardships. She faced more obstacles than a participant in a mud run. And the amazing part? She never complains. No matter what life throws at her, she turns it over to see the positives hidden beneath.
Her legacy is in her lessons, now passed on to her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and anyone else who has crossed her path.