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My other grandmother

Celebrating my high school graduation, 1990.

Today would have been my maternal grandmother’s 100th birthday. Growing up, she was the hands-off grandma, the intellectual who rarely sat on the floor to play, the subdued one who loved me, but wasn’t “fun”.

But something funny happened when I hit high school, especially once I started driving. I spent several mornings a month cleaning her house, but really we spent a good deal of the time hanging out at her kitchen table talking, and working on the NYT crossword.

Somewhere along the way she became a lot more fun as my interests changed from playing nurse to learning about her decades as a night shift nurse supervisor in an era where many women stopped working once they got married.

She told me her Depression stories and her World War II rationing stories. Very similar to those of my other grandma, whom I never outgrew, but who was a kindergarten teacher and generally bubbly lady. We argued politics and issues, discussed the news, and solved word clues. She fed my intellectual side.

I learned about her childhood, her lost dreams, and the type of person she was, and began to understand why she was the serious one, the quiet one, the not-so-playful one. And I learned that everyone loves in their own way.

Both ladies gave me their unconditional love, they just had different ways of showing it. A useful lesson, especially since my two boys, while similar in many ways, have very different personalities. Not only do they love in different ways, but what they need from me isn’t always the same.

So, to my intelligent, inspiring, amazing, thoughtful, quiet, loving grandmother, whom I miss very much: Happy 100.


12 Responses

  1. How awesome to have had someone like that in your life! Happy birthday to her, indeed.

    My maternal grandmother died when I was 7, my step-grandmother when I was 17. She lived far away so I only saw her at holidays, and she was sick for a lot of those years. My paternal grandmother died when I was 12.

    The grandparent with the biggest influence on me was my mom’s grandmother. She was so independent and stubborn and smart and strong. I never got to be as close to her as you did to yours, but she’s both directly and indirectly responsible for me being the woman I am.

    • Natalie: I’m sorry you didn’t get to be closer to your grandparents, but I’m glad you knew them.

      I’m amazed at how much influence both of my grandmothers had on me. My dad’s mom even more so because she lived with us in Germany, and I spent a lot of weekends with her when we lived in Arizona.

      I was doubly lucky because despite giving birth to my parents later in life, they both lived a long time. I had my paternal grandmother until I was 28 (so she met my boys), and my maternal grandma (the one this story is about) until I was 19.

  2. Funny how one grandmother almost always seems to be the bubbly happy one (my Irish gramma) and the other one is less approachable, at least to a child. Never did establish the nice relationship with grandmother #2 as you did but she did give me her best recipe for chocolate chip usage and it’s a family & friends favorite. Enjoyed the post very much.

  3. You know, I had the “bubbly” and “not-bubbly” grandmothers too. Except I called my bubbly grandmother “my 50 cent grandma” because she always gave me $0.50 every time she came to visit and when I was little, that was a lot of money! 🙂

    I was lucky enough to know all my grandparents and most of my great-grandparents. On both sides of my family, the long-life gene is strong so that’s kind of nice in that my parents are now enjoying their first great-granddaughter.

    What a nice memory of your grandmother, Gwen. Thanks for sharing.

    • That’s interesting, Cyndi. I wonder if they get together and plan it that way. 😉 I love “50 cent grandma”. My dad’s mom always had some little gift for me when I visited, to the point that I expected it.

      When I was about five, my dad got disgusted because I would always ask what she had for me. He told me asking wasn’t polite, so I got creative. The next time I went to her house, I said, “You’re such a surprising grandma,” and gave her an expectant look. She loved to tell that story.

  4. Ah. I miss my grandmothers. Even the cranky one. 🙂

  5. What a sweet story, Gwen. 🙂 Both my grandmothers are gone now too. Miss them and think of them often. Wish I would have written down some of the things they told me over the years. Nothing like hearing history first hand.

    • Thanks, Melissa. I know what you mean about the stories. So much first-hand knowledge and experience lost. But I have some of the memories and I remember being fascinated at how they brought my history class subject matter to life.

  6. Such a beautiful post. I’m so close to my mother’s parents. I had my grandpa give me away at my wedding, that’s how close we are. I’m lucky to have them both and it’s going to be horrible when i lose them.

    • Thanks, Keri. How cool to have your grandpa give you away! Having such a good relationship with my own grandparents made me more aware of the importance of making sure my own kids spend time with theirs.

      Even though my mom died so young, she had a huge influence on my boys, and they have many fond memories of her. I’m glad they didn’t miss out on that.

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