Monday, July 9, 2012

Grandmom and My Refreshed Lesson

DH and I went to spend some time with DH's grandmother this weekend. (MIL's mom). After getting into way too much conversation about her new chihuahua and his adorable mannerisms (aka the boring stuff you talk about when you're first spending time with someone), finally we made it into conversation about her past and the memories she has of being a wife, raising a family, the kinds of jobs she has had, her parents and growing up in war times, etc. They were the real stories of people (including herself) who have suffered through ups and downs, happiness and poverty, youth and age, single life, children, the whole nine yards. Let me tell you: I soak this kind of stuff up. I love old people, even the cranky ones. I told DH and I will repeat myself over and over again, I could sit with her all day and listen. It's like a time machine...only cuter.**

Like she told me the story of how her father had to change jobs and moved from a tin manufacturing plant to a weapons making facility for the war and how that changed his income and sense of family the war directly affected this community and her family. He was a good man but he grew tired after the war came. She told another about  how she worked operating a switchboard and how she loved the sense of independence she got from having her own career even though it changed the relationship between her and her husband. I could go on and on, but the woman has just told so many stories this weekend, I can barely keep track! What made it even better was the fact that she took out all her jewelry, clothes and photos and showed them off with so much pride. One necklace she still has was a gift that her father gave to her mother the day she was born because she was their first child -- that necklace is 80 years old! We were there until around 10pm on Saturday AND Sunday (we came back to help her move her bed), and even then I didn't want to leave!

It's just different than what I'm used to, though, because she didn't show things off because of their value, but because they were really meaningful to her in a way that has stuck over many decades. In my family, it is custom to show things off because they were expensive or made some indication toward their wealth (ie their rarity, the fact that xyz celebrity from who knows when owned the same thing). This was definitely not the same thing. Even my own grandmother who I admired for her confident attitude, beauty, style and grace was definitely a severe N. No wonder it rubbed off on my own mother -- her mother taught her that the woman, while center of the household, is also center of the universe in compensation for her actions. What ridiculousness. 

DH's grandmom showed me things that she was proud of because she loved them or because they made a positive gesture towards her children and grandchildren. She collects porcelain dolls and Barbies that she finds pretty, and people have given her some over the years to add to her collection as well. It was an excellent change of pace that definitely reminded me that I have a new family to love.

She even gave me her reproduction of the 1960's Solo in the Spotlight Barbie, the only reproduction that has come out since then. I don't even care about its value, it must be such a tough thing to part with your collection and fear that it is going into hands that don't understand its meaning. I am so thankful and plan to keep that in my room or my little girl's room (if I ever have one, I hope and pray that it's not for a while!)

We even talked about crocheting and I'm going to practice and try to make her a blanket in return for the Barbie, I think that would be a nice gesture.

Anyway, I was reminded that money has nothing to do with the impact and legacy you can leave for people (right now she lives almost exclusively on her social security income, etc.), and there are just some people who can't help but spread their cuteness and people take advantage of that. People forget that she just wants company and wants to share her memories--some unnamed individuals sit and keep their ears open while their eyes are on the goods she may leave them when she passes. I choose not to live that way. I was also reminded of why I love DH because it was just instinct for him to help her (getting her bedroom rearranged to get more AC circulating around, buying her groceries, closing some unused vents, etc.) and that need in him isn't going to get extinguished because he is tired. He expects nothing in return except love from his family and I plan on extending that to our relationship for a long time.

It is just these little things that keep me on the right track.

Stay tuned for my terrible attempt at crocheting. ;)

**Cuteness in old people comes from the fact that a) they hobble b) they say things like, "golly gee!" and "dag nammit!" and c) their ears are big, to name a few.

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