This week is going to be a bit hard for me, and it may be for you, as well. It is the first Grandparents Day that I will not have my grandmother. Those first special days without loved ones are hard. Memories flood from those Grandparents Days in elementary school when I proudly would wait for my grandmother to come to my class and eat lunch with me. And thinking back, there’s a lot that my grandmother taught me. Life is a little less sweet without her here with us, but there is a plethora of memories to recall. Here’s how my Maw Maw left her legacy in things she taught me.
1. Waste Not, Want Not
My grandmother grew up in the Great Depression, and she held on to what seemed like every little thing. But she saw a use in everything. I find myself thinking about second uses for items and how to up-cycle before I go to the trash or recycling bin. There would be a lot less in landfills if more people were like my grandmother. Her house was a treasure trove of things. If you needed something, she probably had it. Even after she was no longer with us, I felt she was still taking care of me because if I needed a medicine or something useful while at her house, I would think, “Where would Maw Maw put this?” and find it!
2. Do Not Be Afraid to Mix Things Up
Maw Maw was a tremendous cook, as I am sure many of your grandmothers are. She would let me roll up spaghetti meatballs and do other little tasks around the kitchen, and she was not afraid to think outside the box. She experimented with food and even if sounded weird, it usually turned out great. I am a food mixer now. You might have the next best dish if you are willing to shake things up to create it.
3. Be Independent
I grew and learned to do things on my own by watching my grandmother. She spent most of her life single. Although she was not anti-relationship, she made it clear to me to put myself in a place that I would be able to support myself on my own if I needed to. It reminds me of the Baz Luhrmann song, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” lyrics, “Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you’ll have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one will run out.” I learned the importance of contingency and back up plans.
4. Women Can Do Things (Feminism!)
Maw Maw broke traditional gender roles. She could cut down a tree and drive a truck. She did as much as she could, and I would just watch as she tackled one thing after another.
5. It is OK to Fight for What You Want
My grandmother was a feisty, Cajun lady who once had red in her hair. She was not afraid to let you know when she disagreed with something. She did not shy away from her opinion/stance, even if it was the unpopular one. She would hold her ground and go down swinging if things turned sour. After she passed, I experienced a devastating failure and for a few minutes on my walk home I thought about how it would be easier to just quit and walk away. But, I heard her voice in my head saying, “Give ’em hell, Tabitha.” I knew I had to try again and even if it meant failure and defeat, at least I had tried for my one last chance. And update: I did succeed on that one last try!
6. Take Time to Tell Stories
Maw Maw liked to tell tales about how she met Elvis Presley (multiple times) and her adventures growing up on a plantation in Louisiana. She told them with flourish and excitement. I knew when I got older, I also had to have my adventures so I could be a cool grandma with my stories. I try as many new things and go to as many new places as I can so I can have these stories one day.
7. Be a Nurturer and Live Generously
My grandmother cared for all things – creatures great and small. She loved animals. She grew plants and had a green thumb, which sadly did not flow down to me in the gene pool. I kill even those plants people say you cannot kill. But I digress. I saw her invest in the lives of those around her and make sure they were OK. I witnessed her take dying plants and animals and nurse them back to health. Everything grows better with love.
She also was the most giving person I have ever known – one of those who really would give you the shirt off her own back. She always helped others. I learned that you don’t have to have a lot to make a difference in someone’s life. You just had to care, and she cared deeply, even for complete strangers.
8. Family is Everything
She might not have always agreed with her family and was not afraid to let them know (See #5), but she always loved them. Her siblings were her best friends, and she was raised to not leave them behind. They went to the movies and such growing up, and they took their younger siblings with them. Even when they lived far away, she regularly checked in and then would proceed to tell us the updates. I saw her take care of numerous ailing family members in their last days, and it meant so much to her to be there for them.
9. Make Traditions
There were certain things we always did with my grandmother that I try to do when I miss her. When my mom and her siblings were children they would always go to “town” for grocery shopping. After shopping, they stopped at McDonald’s for Happy Meals. She regularly continued this on Saturdays with us. It was a our happy place. She also took us to the Mardi Gras parade and would set us up with king cake, coke, and a good time in the bed of her truck. I still think of her when Mardi Gras rolls around. There’s more, but you get the picture. She celebrated each season and included us in the celebrations each year.
10. There’s Not Much a Cold Coke and Moment to Collect Yourself Cannot Cure
My grandmother loved an ice cold Coca-Cola. We even decorated the reception hall for her memorial service in Coca-Cola memorabilia. She always had one waiting in the fridge for you. When I am having a bad day, I pop that tab and as the bubbles go down my throat, my thoughts begin to clear. It can be a coffee or whatever beverage, but the point is to take a moment and refresh. Things will look a bit brighter after a refreshing break.
There’s more that I could tell. She was one of the best people I have ever known. So much of her instilled a lot of my core values in me. I miss her each day, but I still smile when I think of the memories.