Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Women who inspire me - part 2

Susan and Janice at '5 minutes for mom' were kind enough to list my unrefined blog on their list of mom blogs. Thank you so much. They were also kind enough to do a little interview and post that. Here it is.

Today I am going to post again on women who inspire me and I am going to post about my grandmother. I know some readers may roll their eyes at this, but please continue reading because my grandmother is truly one of the stongest women I know. The stories I have heard indicate to me that my grandmother was motivated, even early in life. As a child, she spent one entire Michigan winter in bed from an undefined chest/bronchial malady and was too weak in the spring to stand up straight. Her brothers teased her (don't they always), so she spent the summer on the front porch backing her feet up to the support beam and forcing her shoulders against the same beam to straighten her posture. This experience stayed with her and I will always remember her as a tall woman standing with her chest out and shoulders back. Even though it was a bit unusual in the 1920's, she was active and played organized sports. We have a picture of her playing basketball in skirt. (Who makes girls play basketball in a skirt?) She pursued an education before she married and had a nursing degree and was working as a nurse when she met my grandfather.

He was a minister with a church in Milwaukee and she left her career and the town she grew up for his career. They both worked hard and she did everything she could to pinch pennies because the depression had come and they had 5 children on a minister's salary (some weeks they were paid with eggs and milk). Shortly after they moved back to a church in Michigan, my grandfather suffered a paralyzing stroke. He lost his ability to speak and could not perform his duties as a minister. I cannot imagine how terrifying it was for my grandmother to see their meager income eliminated as she looked at the 5 children (one a preschooler) and paralyzed adult she had to somehow provide for. She found an old farmhouse a church member let them rent at minimal cost and got a job working nights as a nurse. She spent her days getting the children to school, taking her husband to physical therapy, desperately trying to do a few house chores and catch a nap, feeding and bedding everyone when they returned home, and then returning to work. Of course, she attended church on Sundays and thanked God for taking care of her family.

Things proceeded this way for years and the children grew and started to leave home. My grandfather suffered another stroke and passed away. My grandmother was offered a job at a Christian nursing home that had just opened. There were no good bonuses or pay raises, but they paid her what they could and gave her an apartment in the complex to live in. She did everything that needed to be done, administered meds, cooked meals, changed bedding, washed, cleaned and cared for the folks in this home. She worked far more than the hours she was paid everyday.

At 70, my grandmother retired and I remember her retirement party. The tears flowed everywhere as the family and friends she had inspired over the 20+ years as a humble Christian servant bid her farewell. My grandmother retired, but she did not sit still. Finally, after 50 years of waiting on everyone and working herself to the bone, she traveled. She went to Europe, Alaska, and anyplace else there was a car going that had space for an extra passenger. She traveled constantly for about 10 years and then less frequently for the next 10.

My grandmother is still alive today and is 95. She lives by herself with several of her children close by to tend to her needs (finally, the shoe is on the other foot). She has nearly 30 great grandchildren and does a fantastic job of remembering their names and most of the time their birthdays. I know she is tired frequently and her bones ache, but I never hear her complain. She considers everything a gift from God and never questions when it seems that God does not hear her prayers. Last year, I was busy feeling sorry for myself at a family gathering and telling everyone how difficult it was for me with an infant and a husband out of work with a back injury. I saw my grandmother from the corner of my eye and I was immediately ashamed. I am honored to be her grandaughter and hope I can always remember her example as a Christian mother, wife, employee, and woman.
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2 comments:

DigitalRich said...

Nael,

Thank you for participating in the Carnival of the Storytellers.

DigitalRich http://digitalrich.blogspot.com/2007/01/carnival-of-storytellers-2nd-edition.html

Karen Shanley said...

What a beautiful tribute to your Grandmother. She sounds amazing.

And, I think it's also okay to express that you feel you have your hands full with an infant and an injured husband.