This year for International Women's Day, I want to take a moment out of the rush of day-to-day work to sit in gratitude for my grandmother. I'll share some of her story here, and urge you to remember the important ancestors in your life.
Grandma Ruth, "Grannie" as I came to call her, was a constant source of love and support for me. Especially during my early teenage years and into high school, we became quite close. We were able to talk to each other about anything, things we wouldn't tell other people. She loved to share a good laugh, but was equally ready to spit curses at people who didn't measure up to her ethics when she was reading the news or watching television. She taught me a lot about gratitude, how to treat people with respect, how to forgive people, when to stand up for your beliefs and when to just laugh at the world. She wasn't perfect, she was human.
She walked a long road in her life. She endured a marriage to an abuse husband, and tried her best to protect their child--my father. She worked in many different jobs: a meter-maid giving parking tickets and appearing in court; a short stint in a chicken factory pulling guts out of somebody's soon to be dinner; a department store security guard catching would-be thieves in the act. She loved her dogs: a poodle named Coco that she had for a long time, and later, two pugs: Wally and Polly. Later on she married a man who we called my "Psuedo-Grandpa", Ted. Ted showed her so much love and tenderness, I was thankful that she could have some partnership in her later years. Any doubt about their match was washed away when I heard their plans to get married-- on Leap Day! True to form, Grannie blended the serious with the light-hearted fun.
In 2002, we found out that she had lung cancer-- after smoking for too, too long. When we found out, I was across the country at college, but for Thanksgiving I flew home and gave her a surprise. I'll not soon forget the look on her face when I greeted her that day. Or that hug we shared... and then she laughed and called me a name I shouldn't mention here! Hahaha, maybe she didn't like surprises after-all. But, you could tell how grateful she was to spend that time together.
A few months later, I was on my study-abroad program in Namibia and she was confined to a hospital bed at home, on painkillers, struggling for breath. I remember we spoke on the phone, around the world, but I could hardly recognize her voice. It was heartbreaking to hear this strong woman sound so weak. Not long after that cancer took her away, just before she reached age 70. It was terribly difficult to be away for that, even though there was nothing I could do. I think I just wanted to be with her one more time, and to be there to support my father as he went through this tough transition.
But, this my friends, is a celebration! I am thankful for all the time that we had together, and all that I learned about myself from being her grandson. This past December, I carried some of my Grannie's ashes with me to Hawaii. I brought her along on one of the most difficult, and breath-takingly beautiful hikes I've ever been on, out to the Na Pali Coast of the island of Kauai. At the edge of the world, where the old volcanic cliffs meet the sea, I held some space for her and laid her down to rest while looking out to a rainbow over the sea. I know she would LOVE that view, and now I can always carry that new memory of our time together.
So, Happy International Women's Day! I invite you to take a moment to be thankful for the women in your life who have helped make you who you are today. Share your story, and join the celebration!
Take action! This post was submitted in response to International Women's Day 2012.