My Granny is 96 years old. She is all but blind and has a myriad of physical ailments, causing everything from acute pain to constant discomfort and inconveniences, both large and small. Though I spend every Sunday with her, I wouldn’t know about these ailments if not for my mom. Sometimes from observing Granny, but never because she complains. We talk about family. She tells me stories about when she was a little girl. She talks about her folks, or things my mom did when she was little. The stories I like the best are the ones about Granny and Papa meeting, sparking to each other and marrying. Like when he gave her a diamond ring by leaving it in my uncle’s nappies for her to find. Papa wasn’t much on talking, but he was a romantic.
What Granny doesn’t tell stories about are her ailments. She doesn’t complain. Ever.
Neither is Granny one of those women who could be described as a ‘tough old bird'. My papa worked hard and took care of her. She gave piano lessons, but otherwise didn’t work. She kept house and raised kids, but she also had a hired girl, as they were called all those years ago.
Nope, she wasn’t and isn’t a tough old bird. She wanted to look her best, she cared about what other people thought. She was and is delicate and lady-like. Even today, she worries over strays hairs on her chin. Her hands are and always were soft, her nails manicured, her hair styled.
Not strong and rough. But dedicated. She insists on making the best of any situation. She refuses to be a burden to anyone and she does what she has to do to enjoy what’s left for her in life. I know there are days that it hurts just to keep on living, but she does it. She laughs, she goes out, she entertains. She loves and she accepts love. She blames all of us for keeping her alive this long. She says we make her too happy. That’s her only complaint. She’s dedicated. To life, to family, to happiness.
I’ve inherited a few qualities from Granny, but not all those I’ve listed above. I do my share of complaining. Mike and Marne would have to reluctantly agree if you asked them. I also tend to be obsessive. When it come to certain things, like my writing, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. One would think that a good thing, however, obsessiveness and perfectionism do not equal dedication. I’m hell on revisions. However, ending a story, getting it out there, doing the hard work, that’s what I have trouble with.
One of the things Granny has passed down to me is a love for books. Especially well-written, historical romance novels. We’ve loved them together, we’ve traded them with each other. We’ve discussed authors and stories and winked at each other when others in our family, like my mom and sisters, turned up their noses at the literary deficiencies of our libraries. Granny loved it when I’d pick up one of her books and tell her I’ve met the author at a conference. Or, I had dinner with that one. This one is a member of my writers’ group and this one is actually a pretty good friend of mine.
Granny doesn’t read any more. Her eyes are too bad. That would kill me.
Not her. She pulled her chair closer to the t.v. She has a little peripheral vision. She’s getting a kick out of shows she watched when she was younger. Like Gunsmoke, Little House in the Prairie, the Cartwrights.
Granny has read one of my manuscripts. It was before she lost her sight. She couldn’t hold the big binder in her arthritic hands, so she took the pages out the binder an inch at a time. She liked my story. She said my writing was more mature than many authors. I don't know what that means, but her praise tickles me. ‘Course she is granny.
My goal when I started writing was for her to read a paperback with my name on the cover. That will never happen now, because of her eyes. The sad part is, it’s not because the writing industry is too competitive or because certain agents or editors didn’t realize I was destined to become the next New York Times best seller. It's not even because I'm not a good writer. I am. The reason Granny will never read one of my books is because I’ve failed to learn important lessons from her. I’ve failed to do whatever necessary to make my life what I want it to be.
I want to be like Granny when I grow up. I’ve got a ways to go, but I’m working on it.