My grandmother, OliveThis Mother's Day, I'd like to send a big thank-you to my grandmother, who raised me from the time I was 11 years old. Nan, you weren't prepared to take on two young children (me and my sister) as a divorced woman in your 50s, but you did what you had to do. And I thank you for that. Hey, you weren't always easy. But then again, neither was I. Remember that time I got caught stealing music cassette tapes (I just aged myself) when I was about 12? Not only were you furious when you came to pick me up from the store, but you cried for three days and barely spoke to me for a month. Harsh? Sure. But you know what, I never stole again. Can't say the same for my friend, who got caught stealing with me. She was soon back to stealing -- perhaps her mom wasn't as mortified.
Growing up with an older generation meant in a lot of ways I was raised the way that generation raised children. I was expected to do chores. I was expected to do something if I said I would. I was expected to tell the truth. I stuck to that -- usually.
You made me and my sister write out thank-you cards to every single person who sent us holiday gifts. We wrote down each giver's name as we opened the gifts -- no ripping open the next one until we did that. To this day, I return all emails and phone calls. Even ones I'd rather not.
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You made it clear that we didn't have a lot of money. You raised us on a secretary's salary. "What am I, Rockefeller?" you would ask, when I wanted an unnecessary purchase. So I lied about my age and got a job at 15. To this day, I've always been able to support myself.
You might have been tough, but you were soft too. Not a Christmas went by without you getting me the one thing I really wanted -- even if that meant you were looking for it all year. Sorry I only played with that Atari for a couple of months before getting bored.
When I found two stray cats, you said, "They're not coming in this house!" and then, of course, they were soon ours. You couldn't stop feeding them, so what did you expect? When the female gave birth to a litter of kittens, you let me and my sister each pick out our own. I'm sure we didn't need four cats, but you knew how badly we wanted them. To this day, I rescue strays.
When I went away to college, you refused to co-sign a credit card application for me. "What do you need a credit card for?!" you hollered. Well, all my friends had one. That didn't "wash" with you. I finally got one at 24 years old. To this day, I have no credit card debt.
You may not have had "the talk" with me -- but I figured that stuff out myself (eventually). You did, however, teach me about Lawrence Welk, Rosa Rio, Bela Lugosi, and Liberace. That's got to be worth something. (??)
There were things you tried to get me to do -- play the organ, go to Sunday school, eat meat. But when I put my foot down that these were things I did not want to do, you relented. You let me be my own person. You drove me to acting lessons, dance lessons, swimming lessons, and ice skating lessons. You never told me I couldn't do something. That whole summer I spent writing a screenplay that took place in the jungle? You would have preferred I play outside, but you let me bang away on that old typewriter and never told me I was wasting my time. (Even though I was.)
To this day, I'm a writer.
Thank you, Nan. Everything I am, I am because of you. I hope you can see it from your perch in heaven.
What do you thank your mother or grandmother for?
Image via Kiri Blakeley