Lessons Learned From My Grandmother

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Lindsey and I have been out of the blogging world the last few weeks.  Some of this was due to sickness.  A lot of it is due to the failing health and loss of our grandmother last week.  I, Laura, was traveling back and forth to Montgomery over the last couple of weeks to spend some time with my grandmother and be there when she passed.  Lindsey has been tirelessly serving her and family.

Everyone thinks their grandmother is the best.  I could spend a whole blog post telling you about ours.  As I laid awake thinking about her the other night, I started to think more of the lessons I learned from her.  There are so many, but I boiled it down to three.  Although this isn’t your grandmother, I hope you can learn a little bit more about mine and what is important to take from her life.

1. It’s Ok To Be A Lady and Be Smart

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My grandmother eloped at 16 and never really worked much of a job the rest of her life.  She did finish high school, but never got to go to college like her parents wanted her to because she started having babies young.  She was a housewife her whole life to five boys.  So many people last weekend described her as the ultimate housewife, Southern lady, hostess, etc.  I will get to that in number two, but there was one aspect about her that I kept thinking about.

Although she was this proper Southern lady, my grandmother was an avid reader about everything.  She was analytical and always sharing with me something about a recent book she read.  Although she spent hours perusing magazines looking at house decorations, she also read biographies, fiction, nonfiction and Christian books.  When I was at her house last month, although her health was horrible, she still had a book out about habits that she was about to start reading.  I thought “How many people are still worried about changing their habits when they are facing the end of their lives?”

She also was passionate about college football and politics.  No, she didn’t just watch Alabama football games and pretend to know what was going on.  She had the depth chart out and tended to know more then the men in the room.  She also knew a lot about politics and current events.  She knew everything about candidates and what was going on in government.  Although we didn’t always agree on everything, Ganma loved politics.  I think that is why her sons and grandkids are all knowledgable about current events/politics.  We just grew up talking about it like it was normal.

My grandmother taught me that you could be a proper lady and still be passionate and smart.  You can be all things feminine and also care about analyzing things and reading.  This may sound simple, but for someone like me that was wired a lot like my grandmother,  seeing her was a real example for me.

2. The Gift of Hospitality and Caring About The Details

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Her hospitality was probably the thing talked about the most over the last week at her visitation and funeral.  My grandmother loved hosting her big family, as well as friends and parties.  I looked to her growing up as the perfect hostess.  She knew exactly how to arrange fresh flowers, always had some new treat on hand to try when you came to her house, and she always had a pot of coffee on.  I remember sitting around the table with her and her best friends as a child while they drank coffee and I got to have my “coffee milk” (1/4 coffee, 3/4 milk).  Her house was beautiful and inviting, yet she hosted people from all walks of life and made them feel comfortable.  She was a cook like no other.  Until she recently couldn’t walk, she was still always trying a new recipe and telling me about it.  When you came over, she always had fresh sweet tea and lemonade in beautiful pitchers out on the counter.  Somehow, even her lemonade just tasted better than the average lemonade.  My brother put it this way: “She was Martha Stewart on steroids.”  My husband said staying at her house was like staying at a  bed and breakfast.

Ganma and Tays

About a year ago, Lindsey and I went out to the house with George and Tays.  She had made us some amazing strawberry pie.  She had saved some of the pie pastry and topped it with butter, cinnamon and sugar for George and Tays.  As they ate it and loved it, her face lit up.  I remember sitting there thinking that it was little things like special treats that made my childhood at her house so special.  They were small and subtle, but she put time and thought into everything she made or did.  She made Lindsey and I numerous dresses, Christmas stockings for our whole family, and special gowns for the boys to come home from the hospital in.  She wasn’t an over the top grandmother with gifts, but what she gave you was special with thought and time put into it.  If you stayed at her home, you woke up to homemade pancakes or some kind of treat.

So much of my love for hosting or the need to want to make my family feel special at my house comes from her, as well as my mom and other grandmother.  She might be gone, but I will think about her every time I put on a pot of coffee on for guests, cook one of her many recipes I have, use her China she gave me, arrange fresh flowers or throw a shower.  These might seem like subtle things, but they made a long term impact on everyone around her.  The little things and details do matter.  I will never forget this.  My dad said at her funeral the famous quote, “People will forget what you said and what you did, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”  When you were at Ganma’s house your felt loved and special.

3. The Gift of Time Spent

Although so many talked about my grandmother’s gift of hospitality and cooking, I think her biggest gift was time spent.  One of her friends said that she was never too busy to listen.  When you were at her house, everything stopped and she expected to sit with you and have a real conversation.  She was warm and a great conversationalist.  She still continued to be a great phone conversationalist up until the end of her life.  If she met you once, she would remember you and ask about you.  I could honestly tell everyone I knew at her visitation, “She always asked about you.”  Although she could subtly tell you how she felt about someone (a Southern lady would never come right out with it), most of her conversations did not revolve around talking bad about people.  She just showed genuine interest in people.

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When I was in college at The University of Alabama, her and Papa had season tickets and took their motor home up for home games.  I was in college but still valued going over to their motor home on a Friday afternoon and just talking.  Of course, she always brought me cookies or homemade bread.  She was still hosting even in their motor home.  If I called her, she was never too busy to have a long conversation.  She was so happy just to talk.  There didn’t have to be an agenda.  She just really enjoyed being with people and conversing with them.  My dad said dish duty with her was even special as a teenager because he got to have great conversations with his mom.  I think that is what I will miss the most – just picking up the phone and calling Ganma.

Instead of just tearing up (which I am currently doing), I hope I learn this lesson with my own children and friends.  I hope I am never too busy to listen, have someone in my home and enter into a great conversation.  Speaking of conversations, we had an analytical conversation a couple of years ago about the book “Heaven Is For Real.”  I know she is now experiencing the ultimate form of hospitality.  I am glad she is out of pain and seeing things I cannot imagine.  Thank you for reading about my grandmother and the lessons I learned from her.

~ Laura

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