The single most important and influential person in my life was my Grandmother. Today she would have been 115 and though I would not wish her to be living a frail and unhappy life I so wish she was still here.
Celebrating her birthday was something that usually got put off until July 1 because she was a humble person. It was way more fun for her to put on a picnic for 30 or 40 people in her back yard on July 1 than it would have been to allow us to celebrate her the day before. The only thing she loved more than her family was cooking and big holidays were an excuse for both.
I learned many good things from her. Not all of them have stuck in this rather crusty personality of mine but she always gives me something to strive for.
Unconditional love was her greatest lesson. She couldn’t have loved me more. She didn’t always like what I did but she always made it clear that she loved me no matter what. There was no turning away or disapproval with her. Sometimes there were words of wisdom and things I might consider but never a harsh word.
In fact she never had a harsh word for anyone except once that I recall. There was a little bitterness that slipped past her lips once about someone who was living high in the 70’s who still owed them a great deal of money from the 30’s. The rest of the time she could find kind words and positive attributes about just about anyone.
She also taught me about hard work and that it didn’t matter what you did as long as it was respectable, you did it well and you kept your family well with your earnings. This was a woman who taught school, ran a restaurant on weekends and during the summer, tutored children, kept boarders in her home in the winter and rented rooms in the summer to tourists. She worked from before the sun came up to long after it went down, canned, cleaned, changed beds, scrubbed and always had her clothes on the line before Mrs. Motross (sp) did on Monday morning. That is a lesson that did stick with me. I’ve never been afraid of hard work and it’s thanks to her.
I was an only child and an only grandchild and this gave me a very special place in the life of my grandmother. She didn’t have a daughter, so I got to live out that part of her dream and she took me everywhere. That is where I learned some of the finer things of life. Her brothers and sisters were all rather well off and did some of the fancier things in life. I got to go to all the trousseau teas, bridal showers, weddings and other family parties in Toronto. I learned to serve little sandwiches, pour tea, dress appropriately and even how to travel on bus and the subway thanks to all those precious times. From her I got an appreciation for fine china and for the history that went with it.
From her I learned about the love of sisters and brothers even though I had none. She was the oldest of five children and was the matriarch of the clan. Her nieces and nephews flocked around her wherever she went and she always doted on them being careful to remember small details about their lives so she could ask about them the next time they met.
I only saw her lose her temper once in my life and it was toward someone who was threatening and belittling me. Even when her temper flared she managed to maintain her grace and dignity. (That one I’m not so good at.)
When my Grandfather died she was a pillar of strength but confessed to me five years later how terribly she missed him. They showed me together what true love and commitment was all about. Her eyes danced when he looked at her and his shoulders straightened with pride whenever she came in a room.
Perhaps her greatest gift to me was her faith. She never pushed it on me or tried to change my thinking but the devotion she showed to her church and the obvious inclusion of her faith in her daily life was her greatest strength and she was not afraid to say so. Perhaps my fondest memories of her are the many times I snuggled up to her rabbit coat in the pew at church and was held tightly there as my head nodded during the Sunday morning service.
Your love lives in my heart always Grandma. Happy Birthday.