Welcome to my Weblog!
Welcome to 1 Mother 2 Another! To read my most recent weblog entries, scroll down. To read entries from one category, click the links at right. To read my journey from the beginning, click here. To find out more about me, click here.
Top 5s
Short on time? Click here to go to my Top 5s Page - links to my top five recommendations in every category from Breastfeeding Sites to Urban Living Solutions.

My Grandmother

This is a complete off-topic blog, so if you’re looking for cute Maddie stories you’re out of luck.

1975.jpgThis time last year I spent the first night ever away from Maddie. She was almost eighteen months old, and the occasion was my grandmother’s funeral over Thanksgiving week. I was very close to her and felt the loss enormously, though I knew my grief was completely selfish; she’d been in a fair amount of pain for a while, and was completely ready to literally meet her maker. My grandmother was never famous, but her impact on this Earth and on the lives around her is incalculable, and attention must be paid.

So here I go.

My grandmother was born with the name Marilyn, but a teasing young GI who later married her started calling her “Gypsy” because of how much she traveled, and the name stuck. Sixty years later, that’s all most people knew her as. Incredibly smart and well-read, she gave me my love of books; I’d see her devour an apple and a good paperback in an afternoon, though this was rare in one sitting because of all she did maintaining a house for five children and a husband.

Gypsy loved the theater and had a nice soprano voice. She volunteered for her community theatre as often as she could, either performing in a show or helping out with costumes. A woman of strong moral values, she once fought bitterly (though politely) to keep the theatre from doing a popular Neil Simon play that glorified extramarital sex, even though most people only saw it as light, entertaining fare. The very next show they did, though, she was back helping out in the costume shop.

In addition to shaping my love of books, my grandmother taught me much of what I know about baking and cooking. I never saw cooking as work, largely because she always approached a task with joy; if her hands were busy, most likely her mouth was humming, singing or whistling an elaborate tune (which trick, unfortunately, she did not pass on to me). I remember one summer she had me help make cookies, and I thought I knew enough by then to simply eyeball the ingredients rather than spooning and leveling. “All right, I’ll tell you what: why don’t we make a batch this way and see how they turn out?” Needless to say, they were terrible, and I never forgot the lesson because she had the patience to let me ruin a batch of dessert.

Some of my most precious recipes are the ones she wrote out for me in her own hand; I kept those cards even after I’d copied them into my own recipe book. I remember well the contentment I’d feel curled up on the kitchen bench at the farm, watching her putter happily around her domain. She’d often have me help out, but sometimes she’d confess that there simply wasn’t enough work for two people to do and she considered it a joy rather than a chore, so perhaps I’d like to simply sit and keep her company.

roses.jpgMy grandmother taught me to find joy in the simple things: I’ve never seen excitement at the opening of a Broadway show that could rival her excitement over the first of the season’s hummingbirds showing up on her porch to feed. She kept a bird manual and a pair of binoculars in the kitchen window and would cock her head at an unfamiliar bird call; pursing her lips, she’d try to emulate it, and then scramble for her book to look it up. Going for one of our nature walks, she’d happily sing a favorite hymn as we walked, then breathe softly in delight as she came upon a surprise batch of hollyhock flowers.

Gypsy was kind, generous, and expert at being hospitable. Not in a Martha Stewart kind of way – she didn’t make fancy placemats out of snowflakes for a Winter Wonderland dinner. But a stranger wandering onto the farm in search of directions would almost surely be fed a good meal before heading on his way, and never feel as if he’d put anyone out for it. I remember once when some friends of mine on a cross-country trip decided to search me out on a whim, calling for directions and pulling up at the cabin around 11:30. I knew for a fact that Gramma had planned sandwiches out of the wee bit of lunchmeat we had left, but she somehow miraculously pulled together a lamb stir-fry with couscous in a very short time and never made my friends feel is if they were imposing. She was the person who made everyone feel special, every person feel as if they mattered. In her gentle, gracious way, she put a polish on everyone’s hearts so they left feeling a bit happier.

As much as Gramma shaped the periphery of myself – my likes, my talents, my dislikes – even more so did she mold the interior of my heart. To call her advice folksy wisdom would be to belittle what she passed on, but she had a gentle yet firm, unassuming but clear way of dispensing advice and leading me to be a better person. I’d squirm under her scrutiny sometimes but her assessment was invariably right, and I love (looking back) the fact that she felt confident enough in her role as my elder to issue loving corrections – that she loved me enough to put me through a period of discomfort in order to make me a better person. I’m not explaining this well, so here’s an example:

One day as we wandered around the local fair, I spent time pointing out new things I’d been saving up for over the summer to purchase. Wanting my grandmother to know what I was interested in at the time, I spoke up saying, “See that boombox over there? I really want one like that.” Or, “I want to get some new clothes and definitely want a new pair of jeans.” After several minutes, she thoughtfully said, “Have you ever noticed how many of your sentences start with ‘I want’? What do you think that says?”

Or how about this one – A few years after I’d gotten married I was catching up and telling my grandmother all about New York. “My apartment is really great!” I said. “I’ve got this great view of the skyline, and I just got a new cat! And you should see my new dishes from my wedding – they are so cute!” Again she spoke up, saying, “Kiddo, I don’t think this is where your heart is, but have you noticed that everything is MY apartment, MY dishes, MY cat? How superfluous do you think that makes your husband feel?”

Speaking of my husband, I learned much about what it means to be in a good marriage simply by observing her. I never saw my grandmother’s day-to-day life as a sign of feminine oppression, though she didn’t hold a job outside the home; I simply saw a continuous act of silent loving service, and saw in my grandfather’s words and actions how much in love with her he was.

Once when I was around eleven years old my brother and I were walking with my grandparents along a farm road. A truck drove by and a teenager leaned out the window, whistling. “Who are they whistling at?” my brother asked in bewilderment. “Your sister,” my grandmother replied.

My brother was astonished at the possibility. “Who would want to whistle at her?” he asked. (Thanks, John).

My grandmother laughed. “Well, John, it wasn’t for me; who would want to whistle at your grandmother?”

My grandfather shook his head. “Well, now Gypsy, I have to speak up here. If I was the rude sort of feller who did such a thing as hang out a window and whistle at a pretty girl, well then, by golly you can bet I’d be circling around you and whistling all day long!”

But here is one of my favorite glimpses into their love:

wedding.jpgA few years ago we sat visiting around the remains of a simple lunch. We’d had something specific on the table for the meal that we didn’t always have – I can’t remember the detail but will say it was pickles. My grandfather got up from the table, rummaged in the fridge, and began working at the kitchen counter.

My grandmother, her back to her husband, said, “Euie, are you having a (pickle) sandwich?” She clearly knew what he was up to and what on the table had inspired his taste buds.

“You know me so well,” he responded.

She laughed. “Well, I’ve been married to you for a long time, my love.”

“Not long enough,” he replied, so quietly I almost thought I’d made it up.

Through glimpses like this, I saw what a solid, loving relationship looked like decades after it had begun. I watched my grandmother with her children and her grandchildren, and as I moved to become a mother myself I asked her how she managed to raise five children so well.

“With the Bible in one hand and Dr. Spock in the other,” she answered matter-of-factly.

Because as much as she influenced me as a wife and mother, nowhere did she mold me more than in my relationship with God. (And by now there are probably only four people reading this thing, but I don’t care because two of those people will one day be my daughters, and this is my gift to them – a glimpse of their great-grandmother). The bottom line is that no tale of my grandmother can be told without discussing her Christianity.

When I was perhaps 8 or 9, a summer thunderstorm kicked up one night and frightened me, keeping me awake. Coming in to comfort me, my grandmother suggested I turn to God. “If you’re scared and feel alone, try offering your hand out by your pillow as you go to sleep. God will always reach out to comfort you and you’ll know you’re not alone.” I took her very literally for several years and would reach out a hand during the storms of my life. And she was right – I was always comforted.

I turned to my grandmother often for advice, and was never let down. Through family deaths, my parents’ divorce, boy trouble, and more, she was always there loving me, supporting me, being Christ’s presence in my life. I could count on her for practical advice but also to be an unwavering moral compass – if she thought I was heading off on the wrong path or being unreasonable about something, she’d say so. Gently, lovingly, but truthfully. Even unanswerable questions she seemed to make more bearable: once when I was bemoaning my relationship with my boyfriend, saying I thought we should get married but couldn’t see how that was possible when we were never in the same city (though now we’ve been married 12 years!), she said thoughtfully, “Jennifer, I’ve never known God to simply hand someone a blueprint for how his life’s going to work out. That information’s on a need-to-know basis, and right now you don’t need to know.” What can you say to that?

Gypsy was a great and humble servant who changed every life she came in contact with, even slightly. I grieve that she will never know Cora, even as I rejoice that she met Maddie as an infant. I wish she were here for me to call for encouragement, for help navigating the rocky waters of parenthood. I miss her every day, even as I envy her that she’s happy and with her Savior.

I could tell stories about her for hours, but I think I’ll keep a few gems selfishly to myself, to hold in my hand and gloat over when times get tough. I’ll leave you, though, with two last images of her –

A few weeks before her death, my uncle went to visit her in the hospital. Since my grandmother was nearly blind by that time, he was surprised to enter her hospital room and see her working on what looked like a grocery list. “What you got, there, mom?” he asked. She beamed at him. “I’m making a list of all the people I can’t wait to see again.” Peering at her paper, my uncle saw the names of her mother, father, and several other people who’d died. My grandmother was rejoicing at what was to come.

And finally, as we gathered after my grandmother’s funeral, I spent most of the reception time sitting at a table with family; I wanted no part of wandering around, being polite to strangers, preferring to selfishly nurse my grief instead. But I suddenly realized that all some of the people in that room had in common was their friendship with Gypsy, and that indeed, many of them knew a part of her I never would, and this was my last chance to get a glimpse of yet another part of her life. So I began circulating, asking strangers for Gypsy stories.

“You want a story? I’ll give you one,” said a man in his early fifties.

“Way back in the sixties, I went to a Faith Alive conference,” he continued. “Your grandmother, a total stranger, was a speaker there. Because of her testimony, I became a Christian that night and I never forgot her.

“A few years ago, I moved to a new town with my family. I had a hard time plugging in to a church and finding someone to walk with me. I eventually met this really great guy who became my prayer partner. He’s one of my best friends now and encourages me more than I can say. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that his mother had been that speaker at the Faith Alive conference.”

Yes, God in His beauty, His mercy, and His glorious symmetry, had used my grandmother to bring this man to Christ, then used her again to provide this man with someone to encourage him on his personal walk. This one act from this one woman has had innumerable ripple effects on that man, his kids, his friends in his life.

That was my grandmother.

Attention has been paid.


Post a Comment

House Rules

Here are the rules for posting comments on 1mother2another.com. Posting a comment that violates these rules will result in the comment’s deletion, and you’ll probably be banned from commenting in the future.

1) Register first. If you would like to post a comment, you must create an account with us. Check out the home page to do so.

2) Constructive comments only. If you cannot maintain a respectful tone in your posting, even in disagreement, your comment will be deleted. We’re all trying to find our way in this thing and are struggling to be the best moms we can. If you disagree with something I say, feel free to politely email me. If you disagree with another reader’s posting, you’re welcome to kindly post in reply. Vitriolic diatribes will be deleted. This site is about encouraging and supporting, not tearing down and chastising.

3) Questions welcomed. If an entry raises a question, you’re welcome to email me directly or post it. Keep in mind that postings will result in public replies by strangers and not just me.

4) Don’t steal. All original writings contained within this website are under copyright protection. If you link to us, please credit us as your source and provide a link back to our website. If you're interested in using an excerpt in published material, please contact us.

5) Share your photos! We'd love to have photos from our registered readers to show on our home page under "Maddie's friends". Email us a jpeg of your little one's best photo to photos@1mother2another.com. Please, no photos from professional photographers which fall under copyright protection.