Yesterday, I shared about the Christian heritage of my grandmother. (Click here to read it, too!) Today I’d like to share a story I’ve written about some lessons that my grandma taught me. I’ve submitted this for a Chicken Soup for the Soul publication and am praying it gets selected. Enjoy! (You are welcome to share it in its entirety, but please link back here!)
I remember my Grandma Norma’s sparingly stocked kitchen cupboards. As soon as I arrived for visits, she would take me straight to her kitchen to show me a gallon of vanilla ice cream in the freezer, a gallon of milk in the fridge, a box of cereal in a cabinet, along with a big can of V8 that she’d picked up “just for me.” She’d encourage me to make myself at home, enjoying a bowl of cereal or ice cream anytime I wanted. She taught me to value people more highly than things.
I remember many, many trips to Perkins, usually two in the same day. She’d ask for the “senior special” and I’d order a heaping platter of chocolate chip pancakes and a large glass of tomato juice. What I remember most about those trips is my grandma’s obvious pride in me. She loved to introduce me to the widow-friends she’d meet there for breakfast, as well as every waiter and waitress in the place. She knew them all by name. She’d share with me pieces of their lives that she’d learned on other recent visits to Perkins. She taught me to be a good listener.
I remember singing full volume in Grandma’s old green pickup truck while we drove around town. My grandma took me along wherever she went. While she drove, we’d belt out classic children’s songs, one after another. “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “Three Little Ducks,” and “B–I–N–G–O” were among our favorites. Grandma insisted it helped her stay awake – I’m sure it did! – but it also gave us something fun to do in the car and I looked forward to it. I could still hear her beautiful voice ringing in my mind as I carried on the tradition with my own children many years later. She taught me to make the most of every moment.
I remember my Grandma Norma driving 50 mph down the dusty, gravel road from her house. With the steering wheel in one hand and a stick of bright red lipstick in the other, she’d peek occasionally in the rear-view mirror to make sure it was applied just right. Then, she’d draw a brush a few times through her naturally wavy, gray hair and she was ready to go. She taught me to always look my best.
I remember helping my grandma sell antiques at her two-story barn turned antique shop, “The Wood’n Wheel.” She encouraged me to be bold. I learned to walk right up to adults of all shapes and sizes, to ask if they needed any help and show them around. She trained me how to ring up a customer’s bill and make change. She taught me to be confident.
I remember that whatever errand we had to run, Grandma greeted everyone she met with a charming smile, a pleasant word of encouragement and two listening ears. It seemed like she knew everyone, and I was proud that this was my grandma. She taught me to be friendly.
I remember spending many quiet evenings looking at her walls covered with framed black-and-white photos. I loved looking at the pictures of my mom, and her sister and brothers growing up on our family farm. But I especially loved the pictures of my grandparents when they were young. Their heartfelt love for one another radiated out of those old photos. Widowed just before her 40th anniversary, she taught me to value love and devotion.
I remember being just on the verge of womanhood and going shoe shopping with my grandma. I was a petite young lady with size 5 feet. My grandmother towered over me. She was seven inches taller and wore shoes seven sizes larger! She walked me right into a boutique shoe shop and asked the clerk for help. Grandma was looking for the largest size they carried, and I was looking for the smallest. She taught me to appreciate myself just the way I was.
I remember many years later when I was a young mom with two children. Grandma Norma had come to our home for a visit. She absolutely refused to “be a burden.” Night or day, she could always be found working away at something – whether sweeping the sidewalk or washing the dishes. Now it was my turn to take care of her, but, no, she was still my grandma, teaching me lessons I needed to learn. She taught me to be a hard worker.
I remember near the end of my grandma’s life, making the long drive to visit her at a nursing home. Even though she’d lost her ability to speak clearly, she greeted everyone with a smile. Her face radiated peace like you don’t see in many people in her circumstances. Just before heading back home, Grandma got my attention, struggling to communicate with me. Holding tightly onto my arm, she looked longingly into my eyes, mouthing, “I love you.” And I knew she did. She taught me to tell those you love how you feel.
And I remember the very last time I saw her. When it was time for me to leave, Grandma was sitting in her wheelchair in the nursing home’s dining room. She waved to me through the great glass windows as I walked to my car. I knew I might not see her again. I looked in at her and waved back. She waved and waved, grinning at me through white teeth, and her trademark red lipstick. She taught me to believe that “a joyful heart is good medicine.”