Grandmother Power Blogging Campaign: Interview Gram
Yesterday, I came across Britt Bravo's terrific post, Celebrating Grandmother Power: Interview with my Gram, her offering for the The Grandmother Power Blogging Campaign, a collaborative blogging effort (May 7-14) about how grandmothers are changing the world. The campaign was organized by Tara Mohr ("Ten Rules for Brilliant Women Workbook"), and Paola Gianturco ("Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon").
My favorite excerpt from Britt's post where she interviews her Gram:
BB: How do you think the world is worse, or more challenged than it was when you were growing up, or a young adult?
Gram: Well, I think some of the value systems have changed, and people are not held to quite as high standards as they used to be. I think the fact that there is a greater population makes it harder to keep things under control. As a result, I don't think the world is in as good a place as it was when I was younger.
BB: In what ways?
Gram: I think there's more crime. I think a lot more young people are not living up to their potential, like they could.
BB: What do you mean, that they're not living up to their potential?
Gram: I think many of them could go on, and go to school, and use their talents. A lot of them are doing that, but a lot of them aren't.
All this grandma talk has me missing my own: Bethel, Myrtle, and Lepha. Happily, they all lived to be old ladies (Myrtle passed at 92), but I still miss them terribly -- Bethel (my father's mother) especially. Here's me with Myrtle (mom's mom) and Bethel on the day of my high school graduation in 1984:
Myrtle was a North Dakota farm wife, and Bethel was a South Dakota/Minnesota/Iowa housewife and music teacher -- both loving and sweet. Myrtle was one of those tough prairie women who kill a chicken with one hand and make pies with the other. When they removed a grapefruit-sized tumor from her brain in the 70s (paralyzing half her body), they didn't give her much hope. She then lived 20-plus more years, and continued to hand-wash her own lingerie by wrapping her frilly undies around the base of the faucet. And all earrings, necklaces and brooches were selected with greatest of care, no matter what.
Bethel was softer, relentlessly sweet and endured all kinds of teasing from her rascal of a son: my father, Bob. She taught me piano and how to make a perfect homemade apple pie, and gave love in every direction. She sent me kitten calendars and beautifully written notes, and would spend hours with me, playing Waterworks. She'd walk me to school and stay up late, telling me stories of when she lived in Chicago, hanging with funky thespian types -- which certainly gave me a taste for such things.
But why three grandmothers, you ask.
One day, I was chatting with my elderly cousin, Lepha, and she was bemoaning the fact that she never had any grandchildren. She's had three children, and two of them had died young -- one from disease, the other accidental. Her remaining child never married or had children.
I, in turn, whined that I had no grandmothers left. So there we were.
Until one day, I rode my bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and hung out at the tourist-soaked viewing spot on the Marin end. I always loved to help tourists take photos of themselves with the incredible bay backdrop. There, I met a grandmother and her granddaughter who were traveling together. I snapped the photo of the two smiling women and a thought barged into my brain:
When you get home, write a letter to Lepha and ask if you can adopt her as your grandmother so neither of you has to go without.
Rarely do I listen to my wise inner voice, but this time, I did. Lepha was overjoyed! Every week I would call her, and her daughter would answer and call to her, "It's your granddaughter on the phone!" I'd send her cards, flowers and go see her, of course.
When Lepha passed, her daughter asked me to speak at her funeral, which I did. There, I told the story of the time I'd asked Grandma Lepha, at the end of her life, if there was anything she'd never done but been curious about. Lepha -- who had traveled to many countries (ridden camels in Jordan, had her bum pinched by Italian men in Rome, kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland, etc.) looked right at me and announced: "I, Lepha Knowles, have never worn a T-shirt."
We laughed about that for a long time. She was a cool lady.
All this g-ma talk also brings to mind another grandmother --- not mine, a bunch of other people I don't know -- but to me, Kate Armstrong exemplifies all the beauty and wisdom of a modern-day grandmother. I met Kate when we were both becoming Master Composters and she is a dedicated Urban Forager, health-seeker and overall hottie. Plus, she comes to all my parties and has the best laugh ever. Hats off to you, Kate.
If you have a grandmother you currently appreciate, admire, and/or miss terribly, please go here and submit your own post.