The Strongest Woman I Know

Well, it’s been a while since either of us has posted anything and we’ve had the idea to write about and post guest posts from strong women for March. It is, after all, Women’s History Month. The irony there is that I personally have felt, mentally and physically, like the weakest woman in the universe for the past week or so, but I digress (and yes I always digress).

As maybe part of unveiling more of my true self, I thought then I’d write about the strongest woman I know: my grandmother. I told her I was writing this blog post today.

Gram: “A what?”

Me: “A blog. [Bitchy] and I have a blog where we write things and share them with people.”

Gram: “Oh. Can I send it to your uncles?”

Me: *thinks–Twitter, blog, tumblr, things* “No. Never. Not in a bazillion years.”

Gram: *shrugs* “Well, that’s not nice.”

Me: *Sigh*

I’ve mentioned her some over on the Twitter and a bit in one of my blog posts. My grandma is my mom really, she adopted me when I was 18 and she raised me, as a single mother, from the age of 14 on. Really, she rescued me from a house of violence, alcoholism, drug abuse and filth. She didn’t have to do that. She could have just retired and moved to Florida without me, but she put aside her own needs to maybe finally have a life of her own and took me with her when she left NJ.

Awesome things I know about my grandmother. She worked as a secretary in an advertising agency, in the 1960s, on Madison Avenue in New York City. She WAS like a character on Mad Men. In fact, she will tell you it’s totally true. The booze, the philandering, the sexual harassment. She quit after a couple of months.

She lived through the Depression and tells great stories like how her mom would send her to the butcher shop to ask for a bone for the dog. They had no dog. Her mom made soup from it. The entire house took a bath from one tub (when they bathed) and she always got to go first because she was her daddy’s little girl. She had only ONE toy as a child: a doll.

She taught third grade in another school in the town I also went to elementary school in and she was the coolest teacher ever. She brought in a pig’s heart from the butcher and taught kids how it worked with water and food coloring. She let the class raise a bunny rabbit. She wrote plays (and always wrote in a part for me) and tap danced for her students.

She put herself through college, not once, but twice. She tried to take out a loan to pay for her very last class of nursing school, in the 1980s, in suburban New Jersey. The bank manager refused to grant her the loan without her husband’s permission. She refused. She borrowed it from her father instead.

She raised her three children and worked and survived an alcoholic abusive marriage to a man that did horrible things. And, on his death bed, she forgave him.

She worked Monday through Friday as a teacher and Friday and Saturday nights in a hospital so that I could have things like a cool pair of jeans or so we could take vacations. She never bought herself anything that wasn’t on sale. She only had three pairs of shoes (now, she totally loves me to model shoes for her.)

She brought me Gator balloons my senior year of high school and a bouquet of flowers when I got admitted to the University of Florida and she cried. She cried at everything. She’s so embarrassing like that. (OH GOD, THAT IS WHERE I GET THAT FROM.)

She took our whole family to Hawaii a few years ago because she wanted to see a volcano.

My gram is 83 years old. She’ll be 84 this year. For her 84th birthday, I’m taking her to get a tattoo because it’s on her bucket list. I just discovered this two weeks ago when I told her I was getting mine because I didn’t want her to be judgey.

She loves terrible reality TV shows. She watches the Today Show religiously so that I don’t have to (I get the synopsis every day).

She’s outlived three men. (I jokingly call her the Black Widow.) She says she’s done with relationships now though.

She smothers me when I really want to be left alone to just feel sorry for myself. :)

My gram sees the world with rose colored glasses. IT IS SO ANNOYING. She’s a spitfire. She’s survived both breast and lung cancer. She’s had a hip replaced, which severely cut into her dancing time. She does so much for me. She also is the worst cook in the world and she makes faces when I make “fancy” food. She loves both of her sons more than me because mothers love their boys without question. She holds me to a higher standard than anyone ever would and I try and please her because of it. She’s kind and caring and she annoys the crap out of me when she puts my dishes away because she puts thing in the wrong places. She constantly guilt trips me because I don’t call her in the mornings anymore since I have this job. She is fearless. She will try anything once.

She tries to read boring scholarly articles and book chapters that I’ve had published, even though she has no idea what an academic librarian does. She is more proud of me for everything I’ve ever accomplished than I will ever be of myself. And she makes the things that are the hardest in my life seem easier. She helps me with the most important things and manages to make me feel better when I feel like I am failing at the most important things (which is every day).

I’m afraid I will never be half the woman that she is. Somehow her ability to just see things in a better state than they really are has gotten her this far in life, through a violent, hellish marriage, through cancer, through so many personal tragedies. I wish I could always see things like her, more positively. I think that’s what I’m really just trying to do this year. I can’t fix everything, but I can believe in things that seem impossible. I can laugh more. I can take more risks. I can love again. I can forgive.

I’m going to print this out and give it to her. She will cry. But at least I know she won’t figure out how to get back herE on “THE COMPUTER” to send it to my uncles that way.


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3 Responses to “The Strongest Woman I Know”

  1. Hardin Reddy says:

    We’re losing the generation that lived through the Depression, with its 25% unemployment and lack of the many government assistance programs we take for granted today. They probably laugh at the media’s attempt to call the recent economic malaise the “Great Recession.” Strong challenges shape strong people, and at least some of her strength seems to have rubbed off on you.

  2. Wine Librarian says:

    My gram is a serious Democrat. I think that she feels for people today a lot though. But, she doesn’t get it at all. Thank you so much for always reading :)

  3. John says:

    Oh, Winey – I love your grandmother. I see so much of my grandfather, and his cousin (my great-aunt, I think?) in her.

    What I love most about her, though, is that she’s obviously not shy about showing her love for you. That’s so important, and so overlooked in some relationships these days. I mean, it’s impossible to not love you — but knowing there’s someone out there who makes sure you know it . . . well, that makes things better, from an onlooker’s vantage point