My last living grandmother died this past Monday. She was born February 2, 1922 and passed away May 14, 2012. She was truly a woman defined by the times she lived. She raised five boys on limited finances and was left a widow at the age of 50. She never remarried and never dated. She was an industrious independent woman who lived on her own until the very end.
I can still picture her out mowing her yard while sweat poured off her. She would routinely work up a sweat, even while she cleaned her house. She was never afraid of working hard. In fact, hard work, greatly defined who she was as a person. She used to say, “You’ve got to keep moving to stay alive.”
She golfed nearly every week day for 25 years. She could be found hitting her first tee shot each day just as the sun began to rise. She explained her early starts by saying, “I like to get going before the men’s club starts. The men just play too slow!” She had things to accomplish each day and no time for being slowed up by others. She was finally forced to give up her beloved golf in her late 70’s due her arthritic hands.
When she wasn’t golfing, she walked briskly rain or shine several miles a day. She was a sharp card player and played in two bridge clubs for almost four decades. She routinely gave golf or card advice in sincere positive understandable terms regardless of a person’s age or ability. She taught kindergarten for several years and ran a make shift upholstery business out of her garage for many years. She sewed often and her garments were a reflection on her personal values. They were always practical and never flashy.
I remember wanting a bag for my skis but didn’t want to pay as much as the stores wanted for them. For a fraction of the cost, she made me a great ski bag and reused a zipper from an old discarded sleeping bag. She was green before being “green” was cool. She didn’t waste anything and could stretch a dollar. I recall when I was very young her asking me why we put our towels straight into the dirty clothes after each bath. She explained it was wasteful both in time and energy to not simply hang towels to dry. She explained washing them once a week was sufficient. I soaked up her common sense thinking.
I lived with her for a couple of years during college which was vastly rewarding. Her and I revamped her detached garage which used to be the family’s pool room into my college dorm room. We painted, carpeted and set up a very swanky studio for me. I had a great set up. I paid her $150 a month and got in return most of my meals and all my laundry done. But more importantly, I got to really know and love her.
While she never had much wealth, she was always generous and made due on her limited income by carefully budgeting. In a world obsessed with instant gratification and unnecessary purchases, we’d be wise to learn to emulate her budgeting and careful spending habits.
Until now, I had never stopped to truly consider the impact she had upon me. As Stephanie can attest, I can be frugal and despise paying a penny extra than needed. I certainly lean toward being practical over being extravagant. I like to think of myself as having a great deal of common sense. I’d say my grandma had common sense in “spades,” to use a card playing phrase. I am certain a great deal of it came via her and her influence.
Her death didn’t make international news and her life will not make it into history books. Her life will though have long-lasting positive repercussions on the world through the lessons she taught her five children and nine grandchildren and many great grandchildren.
I will miss her, as will the world.