I’ve been lucky enough to have some wonderful mother figures, in addition to my own mom, who have helped guide me on my journey through life. One of the most influential of these women was my maternal grandmother, Beverly, affectionately called Grammie by her 8 grandchildren. She taught me so much during our 27 years together including what it means to be strong, that it is ok to stand firm in your beliefs, and that laughter really is the best medicine.
My Grammie was a fighter right from the start. She was born prematurely, weighing only 2 lbs at birth. She also battled (and beat) cancer numerous times during her lifetime, among other life threatening illnesses. How she dealt with these hardships is what exemplified strength. She was armed with a positive attitude and knowledge. When the doctors diagnosed her with something, right away she was doing medical research of her own. She didn’t sit around feeling sorry for herself that is for sure.
Standing Firm in Your Beliefs
When Grammie felt she was right about something, there was no convincing her otherwise. We used to joke that this was the stubborn Irish in her. I remember her telling me a story about how when her 3 daughters (one of which is my mom) were teenagers, she participated in a summer program for inner-city kids. She welcomed two boys into their home every day from 9am until 5pm for an entire summer. This was also during a time when racism was still very common. She told me that after the boys began visiting their home, many of their neighbors refused to let their children come out and play. Some never spoke to her or her family again after that. Even her own parents questioned why she did it. She knew in her heart what was right. It may not have been the easiest path to choose, but she walked it regardless. I don’t think I had ever looked up to my Grammie more than I did after she told me that story.
Having a Sense of Humor
Grammie had a wild sense of humor. I remember watching her laugh so hard she would have to remove her glasses to wipe the tears from her cheeks. One of the many funny stories she shared with me about her childhood was how when she was either seventeen or eighteen years old, she managed to get almost all of the students at her school to skip school and go to a Burlesque show in Boston. She told me that even the teachers thought it was hysterical and wondered how she was able to get the whole school to go.
She wasn’t afraid to laugh at herself either. I’ll never forget her (while she was sixty-something years old) showing me bruises all over her stomach, while laughing and telling me about how she put the treadmill speed up to high, tripped, and flew off of it. It was like something straight out of a sitcom. I’m convinced that it was this sense of humor matched with her positive attitude that enabled her to beat cancer time and time again.
I miss her a lot. She was my celebrity-gossip-show-watching buddy (Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight were our favorites). She was someone I could share my problems with and go to for advice. She was someone who had so much faith and confidence in me. Although she is no longer with us, her spirit sure is. It’s in her lessons and stories that she shared and that, one day, I hope to pass along to my daughters as well.