The Right Kind of Role Model

I wrote earlier this week about my reasons for no longer following celebrity blogger Ree Drummond, known to her millions of fans as The Pioneer Woman. I realized that looking up to insincere people who will never give a hairy wart on a rabbit’s backside about me is a waste of my energy.

Today, I’m going to share my grandma with you, because she’s the kind of woman who rightfully deserves accolades.

My little grandma at fifteen.

Grandma is originally a small town girl who loves animals and chocolate cake. She’s my kind of gal. When I was small, she made me chocolate muffins with a sort of cheesecake in them, and we sat and savoured them together. Those were my muffins, and Grandma often surprised me by having a batch made when I came to visit.

She has always done the little things to make her family and friends feel special. At age eleven, late on the night before my appointment to have my braces installed, Grandma found me crying in bed, nervous about the actual procedure and, much more so, dreading returning to school with a mouth full of brackets and wires. She hugged me tighter than you’d expect for such a tiny woman, and she said, “You don’t need to worry about it. It is what it is, and then it will be over. Besides, you’re our granddaughter and there is no one in the world loved as much as you.”

I tried to work the ratios on Grandma’s statement, since I’m one of six grandchildren and I thought she was supposed to love us all equally. She explained to me that, while she loved us all the same amount, she loved her grandchildren as much as one person could love another. Therefore, really, there really isn’t a person loved as much as I am by my Grandma: I’m maxed out.

Grandma, together with her late husband, welcomed many other people into her home over the years. I have never been to a holiday dinner cooked by my grandma without an extra face or three at the table. Years ago, Grandma and Grandpa even hosted a wedding in their home for a friend of my uncle’s, because that friend needed a welcoming place to marry his extremely pregnant girlfriend. It has never mattered who needed support: my grandparents have always gladly opened their doors and their hearts.

For many years, my little grandma spread her love for children by volunteering with ABC Headstart, which is a program for disadvantaged preschool children. Dozens and dozens of wee people shared my grandma; many came from troubled families and did not know their own grandparents, so her presence added something very precious to their young lives.

Grandpa, Grandma, and me in yellow jammies.

Education has always been a focus for Grandma. She graduated the valedictorian of her high school class, and has always been an avid reader, loving to absorb new information. During my childhood, she always encouraged me to pursue academic goals. Later, she and Grandpa contributed to my university tuition while I plodded toward my education degree, and I never doubted the value of literature or learning.

She’s pretty excited about Blue Speckled Pup, even if her limited experience on the internet causes her to refer to this little site as my “blob.” I promise I won’t destroy the city, okay?

When my little brother (now a welder) attended trade school, he moved into Grandma and Grandpa’s basement for the weeks of his courses here in the “big city.” He often joked with me that he should just stay permanently since he ate better during his studies than while he was back home, and Grandma was his biggest cheerleader. Rah! Rah! Have another pork chop!

Summer vacations always left us looking forward to a week’s stay with our grandparents. We went swimming, to the big provincial museum, to the zoo, and to the fancy pants supermarkets that stocked items unheard of in our little hometown grocery store, like pomegranates and kiwis. I didn’t think of it at the time, but it was an amazing thing for my grandmother to keep up with the two of us. We were what my momma affectionately calls “a going concern,” and Grandma matched us stride for stride back then.

Grandma was busy with her own stuff, too. In the time that I’ve known her, she’s taken on golf, downhill and cross-country, skiing, tai chi, and other pastimes. After retirement, Grandma decided to learn something new and took swimming lessons; eventually, she was able to keep up with the lane swimmers and hit the pool several times every week.

Years later, Kate Middleton would copy this dress.

Grandma married my beloved Grandpa Howie, who passed away this winter, accepting the challenges of being a navy wife. She moved her family all over the country, following Grandpa from Victoria on one coast to Halifax on the other. For a few years when my mom was six, they even lived in Churchill, Manitoba, where huge fences were built around the schoolyard to prevent polar bears from snacking on the children.

In the first years of their marriage, Grandma was often home alone while Grandpa was away at sea. She handled that just like she has handled all her challenges: with unflinching courage and an “it is what it is” attitude. Amazingly to me, she gave birth to my mother while Grandpa was away on a ship somewhere. We talked about that experience at lunch today, and she explained how she took a cab to the hospital when she went into labour. When I asked her how she managed to keep it all together in that situation, Grandma stated simply, “What else was I going to do? I was having a baby.” Even in the most intense situations, Grandma is focused and intent on her goal. I’d love to be more like her.

Many women in the fifties were content to take the socially popular role of homemaker, but Grandma chose to work outside the home. She spent much of her career in banking, working in the financial world during the week while excelling as a mother of two. Through sheer determination and hard work, she cooked for her family, maintained her home and somehow managed to “do it all” beautifully.

Since Grandpa has been gone, Grandma has been remarkably tough. I’m not sure how she does it, moving through her days without her husband after more than five decades of marriage. Given the way she has always lived her life, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that she handles even this, the biggest of challenges, with grace and fortitude.

This is the kind of woman who should be admired. Amen.

copyright 2011:

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Laura C says:

    I don’t know you, but I found your comment on PWSux and I just want to say that this was such a wonderful post. I’m just about in tears. You are very lucky you Grandma is still with you, I can tell that you know this.
    Just wanted to let you know I was here and very moved by your Grandma’s story.

    1. Kay at Blue Speckled Pup says:

      After losing my Grandpa in February, I really appreciate my little grandma more than ever. Grandpa is featured in the older posts with “Howie” in the title. I’m trying to honour the people who matter most here on my little blog, and I’m touched that you enjoyed my stuff. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Please stop in anytime!

  2. Indy Gal says:

    I also came here from PWSux. What a lovely piece about and tribute to your grandmother!

    You might enjoy reading “Don’t Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from my Grandmothers” by Adriana Trigiani. I think you’ll see many similarities between her grandmothers and yours — even though they would have been your mother’s grandmothers.

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