Both of my grandmothers were deceased by the time I was five years old, so there never was the stereotype of the time, a short little woman with white hair in a bun, for me to call Gram. I didn’t get to meet her until I was fifteen. The picture above is of Beckham who is almost 1 year old and is Gram’s great-great-great grandson.
In August of 1959, my family moved 20 miles outside of a small town in SW Colorado. My bother and I rode the bus into town for school and entered a culture very different from the one we were born into.
One day, a new friend invited me to lunch at her house which was half a block away from the high school, and there was my Gram. Her name was Emma Bertha Maddox, born in 1882 in Illinois, and seventy-seventy years old at the time of our meeting. She was visiting from the next town over and made lunch for her grandkids while her daughter was out. It seemed like a lot of trouble to cook a hot meal for a group of kids and friends, but she said she had owned diners and restaurants and this little lunch was nothing much. There had never been very many elders around me and it was almost a curiosity to watch Gram interact with her grand kids.
In the Extraordinary Elder class, one of the first topics we discuss starts with the question, what role models did you have to show you how to be old? Until a few weeks ago when the family tree caught my eye, did I remember how deeply this woman impacted my thinking about elders, strong women and being a grandmother.
A few months later into the school year we met again when she was visiting and by then one of her grandsons and I were dating. After that time, she would always reach up and pat my cheek and tell me how beautiful I was. For a teen-aged girl, far from home and unsure of herself, Gram knew just what to do.
The following year found me married to her grandson and living in the college town where she lived. Most days, after my high school class, I would walk the two blocks to her apartment and have something cool to drink. As the days shortened, the soft lights would be on in her little nest and we would have something hot to drink. At the point of my leaving high school she begin to tell me about what it meant to be a mother and what life changes were coming my way. She would occasionally cook dinner for us and when morning sickness turned into after dinner sickness she would give me soup.
Gram’s daughter, my mother-in-law, must have learned how to be the terrific grandmother she was from her mother. My sons were lucky enough to have one of the best grandmothers ever. It ran in the family. My Gram was important to me in a time that I needed loving care. Knowing that she lad a difficult life that starting with coming to Colorado on a wagon train from Indiana/Illinois, and survived two world wars, a depression, a divorce, working for pay less than men, no anesthesia for birth and the dust bowl era, made my life look like the proverbial piece of cake–with chocolate icing.
The bottom line for all grand children–your grandmother told you that you mattered to her. You were loved and important and always would have her unconditional love.