Friday, January 11, 2008

The Original Brave Pioneering Woman - in honor of my Grandma on Mother's Day

She's got olive skin. I always wondered why I didn't inherit that. In my youth she stood tall - 5'6" naturally - add a few for whichever heels she had chosen to wear that day. An educated woman before her time - she graduated from USC in the 40s. She worked and even when she didn't work for a living she would sometimes spend 40 hours a week volunteering (whether it was when the children were small or when she became small into her 80s). Up early always and dressed properly to boot she was always ready for her day. God forbid you were a non-morning loving grandchild for a visit. She'd wake you in the morning at the bleary eyed time of 6 am with a little scratch on the back, a "rise and shine" and the lights would flip on. Gads... Grandma.

Epic stories are told of this woman's stoicism. It's how she earned her rights as the Original BPW. Known for her tendency to go without on camping trips when a sleeping bag was supposedly forgotten the nomer was bestowed by her mischievous boys. She proved time and time again her BPW merit as she would always sacrificing herself - making due in any situation. No seats left in the truck? She'd ride on the hump with no seat belt. Not enough of the meal to go around? She'd have saltines and milk and it would be fine. Not enough help for the auxiliary gourmet kitchen/gift shop volunteer/book keeper/Sunday school/cooks for the church breakfast? She would take the extra shift and volunteer. You say her neck/leg/wrist/sternum/foot/pelvis is broken? She can still meet all her volunteer/social/church/family obligations. Seriously. She will try.

I distinctly remember her in her Halo for the broken neck (and orthopedic device, though I think she's earned the heavenly kind) - running down a pastor she hadn't seen in a while at the Annual United Methodist Church Conference in July in Redlands, CA (read 102 degrees in the shade). Nothing could stop this woman. Even recently during a hospital stay due to complications with a sternum (breast bone) fracture and abdominal pain she managed to convince the nurse that she was "in no pain" but frequently asked for ice packs. "No pain medication needed." Right. Crazy BPW.

A couple of years ago this amazing woman who has accomplished so much in her lifetime mentioned to me through some emotion that she wished she had done more with her life. My jaw dropped. I couldn't even begin to come up with the accolades that have or should be bestowed on this woman. When cleaning out her house four years ago in preparation for my family to come live with her for a time my mom and I uncovered boxes of awards and recognition that grandma had never put up - much less probably showed anyone. There they sat - in boxes. Knowing that awards and accolades were not what she meant I tried to vocalize some of her incredible gifts to this world.

We discussed her contributions to the church, endless hours of volunteering, being among the founding members of our local church, and her never failing tithe. We talked about her commitment to the hospital and her contributions on the board of directors, the volunteer community, and the fiscal donations making possible growth for the future. We talk about the educations she has helped fund, her own children, her grand children's and now her greats'. I don't even know, I realize, the vastness of the impact this one now little woman has made. How many lives has she touched?

She is the most proud, of course, of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. What a legacy she has left. Gifted, intelligent children married to solid and gifted spouses. Each with their own family her children have raised good children. Each of us grand kids have gone on to productive lives - a few of us with spouses of our own. And then there are her great-grands. Those beautiful babies that she dotes on. Her eyes sparkle brimmed with tears when we talk about her family. I am reminded of the clear plastic holders in her wallet filled to the max with her granddaughters' pictures (she only had granddaughters until Jacob). We are good women because we learned from the best, I tell her.

I think about the long days at Grandma and Grandpa's when our parents would "David-Union-Mary-Paul (parent code for 'dump') us at the folks". We played and Grandma's imagination spurred us on. We typed on real typewriters that Grandma kept running just for us then she would read our nonsense like it actually said something. We built forts out of handmade quilts and mushroom stools from the 60s. She and Grandpa kept trampolines for their coffee table and we would set them apart bouncing back and forth on them. We would practice the piano and Grandma would click along with a noise only she can make with her mouth. She would take us swimming in the summer and gladly spend all afternoon with us at the pool doing the side stroke so as not to get her hair wet. She would invent projects for us to do and I wonder now how her craft closet was always well supplied - who keeps googley eyes, pipecleaners, and pom poms on hand? Grandma. When we trick-or-treated at Grandma's she was always dressed up with her witch hat. I have the coolest grandma. What I told her was that she always made us feel important and loved.

By the end of our conversation I think she had resolved to meditate on those things - all things that are good. My mother gave me a plaque some time ago that reads, "Good women; may we know them; may we raise them; may we be them." In this sentiment Grandma, you have succeeded in every way! Your BPW legacy lives on. Happy Mothers' Day to all the Good Women in my life!

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