Ode to Grandma Julie

It’s my birthday weekend. I’m feeling sad and alone…as usual. It’s a Saturday, about 8:15p.m. and I am still in my p.j.’s. thinking about what to do tonight, if anything.

I keep thinking about my grandmother. I just had an hour long conversation with my mother, and we talked about her. She was something else. A sprite I would say. She was the kind of woman that you know had a twinkle in her eye, and could capture people with her smile. She was feisty, and I wouldn’t want to get into a verbal battle with her. She also spoke several languages, so she’d probably put you in your place in Italian without you even knowing it.

She gave me a lot in life. She taught me how to ride a bike, (well, Mom too)! and made sure I always had one. She took me skiing, where I soon realized it was not for me! She would also always take me to museums and science centers because she knew I would be a total geek about it and really get into it. She always made sure I was eating lunch…and I can’t count how many sandwiches she made for me over the years with that awesome Durkee’s sauce.

She and I didn’t see eye to eye on most things, but we respected each other for it. I often thought that she didn’t like me, and that she adored my younger cousin. One day we were going for a walk and had a great conversation about it. (Among other things). She never came out and admitted that she liked my cousin more than me, but after that walk I felt like we found a bridge that crossed the gap between us, and we were able to find it each time afterwards so that we could try to relate to each other.

I was always confused by my grandmother…the way she would phrase things made no sense to me as a child, so I think I pissed her off a lot by simply giving her a dumb, “wtf are you talking about” look. I think that because we looked at the world so differently, she thought I was going to do everything all backwards and would mess everything in my life up. (Who knows, maybe I did)! She was talkative and outgoing…not afraid to toot her own horn; I was shy and easily intimidated, and thought it best to be modest. But she and I are both conundrums in our own ways. While she was proper and knew all the technicalities of manners and etiquette, she was also a tomboy who rode a Harley in her day. She was materialistic, but knew the value of taking good care of those materials. She would garden and do laundry, but also clean gutters and drink scotch. She worked on machines, and was my go-to person whenever I needed a bike fix. But she would also freak the fuck out if you took a step in the house with your shoes on.

She like to get what she wanted when she wanted it. She liked having control. I was patient and easy-going…more like I knew I’d get what I needed when I needed it, so there was no need to go around demanding it. I think she though I was going to live a life of hard work and poverty and all because I was stubborn and wouldn’t just ask for what I wanted. In her mind, I believe, there is nothing wrong with asking for what you want and taking it when it is offered. Not to say that I think she didn’t believe in hard work, but I believe she didn’t think that was the only, or the best way to get what you want.

I think she thought that I was a dirty wild hippy kid that was going to have my brain fall out of my open mind. So she’d give me advice. It was all bad! Haha, she didn’t mean to I’m sure, it just turned out that way! For example, she hated the way I walked. Apparently I “marched” and occasionally dragged my feet. So, she made me pace back and forth while she analyzed my gait and determined that I needed to take a stride going heel-to-toe, not the other way around. Up until that point I was the fastest runner of anyone I knew, including my older sister who beat me at everything. I ran around barefoot all summer until my feet were calloused and black. I would often walk up on my tippy-toes, just because it seemed comfortable. I had wicked high arches too.  After I changed the way I walked because she assured me it was better, (I mean, even her foot doctor told her so)! I started having foot problems…the exact same kind that she had! It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I did my own research, learned a lot about the scams of the shoe industry, and bought toe-shoes that helped me to go back to that natural gait. I had to have two foot surgeries, that still cause pain, but since I started going with what feels right, I can run again, without my ankles clicking and giving out on me. I built the foot muscles back up, and caught myself walking on my tippy-toes again. My arches (which fell nearly flat) are back up to where they used to be.

I bring up that example because I feel it really points out the differences in her and I. She was confident in a way that I wasn’t, and put her confidence in things that I wouldn’t. While I sit alone on my birthday weekend feeling sorry for myself not having the guts to just go out alone, and sing and dance like no body is watching, I feel like she would have made herself the life of the party. If people didn’t remember, or didn’t plan some kind of party for her, she would have let her displeasure be well known! She would never have let people treat her the way I’ve let people in my life treat me. But on the other hand, I think that she would just go along with whatever society told her to do, not because she was afraid to stick up for herself, but because she was afraid of the loneliness and isolation that comes from standing out in the crowd. She wanted to be popular, and wanted to fit in. So she did what she did to get that. As much as it really does suck sometimes, I rather feel lonely and isolated than fake. I rather sit home alone than try to keep up with or show off to the Jones’. (Funny enough…her neighbors actually were the Jones’)!

That day that we took a walk together and had a great conversation, and bridged that gap, I think she realized something about me. I think she finally saw through to me, and got it…and admired it. As a kid (and even still now on the precipice of 28 years of age) I get nervous…like, really nervous. I clam up and can’t do things that I can easily kick ass at when no one is looking. I stutter and stumble over my words when I meet new people…and even with my best friends that I have known forever. I drop stuff and can’t find stuff right in front of my face, and overall I just get so overwhelmed by the attention of others being on me. I constantly fuck with my fingers…no longer outright biting my nails, but picking, and fidgeting. If I can’t do that, I mess with my hair. It makes me look like an idiot, and I know it. I know if I could just relax a little people wouldn’t think I was such a weirdo. But, I won’t do something just because someone else is. I’ve never been a trend-follower. Fuck that shit. Perhaps I’m so used to the idea of people thinking I’m a weirdo, that I don’t care if they think I’m even more weird because I don’t follow the trend. So, you like Jordans and would spend hundreds of dollars on sweat shop shoes ’cause you think they look cool? Awesome. I’ll be in my toe shoes looking like I have monkey feet. I’ll also probably be able to outrun you in 10-20 years.

I think that my grandmother finally saw and understood that wild little hippy child with dirty bare feet. I think that she was concerned that I would grow up to be a sad lonely person who had a hard time relating to her peers. But I think that she finally saw that I wasn’t just some nervous little kid who lacked confidence in all forms. I was strong enough to choose what I felt was right, even if it was hard, and even though it hurt me to feel like such an outsider. While my Gram carried her confidence on the outside with her pretty white teeth (that she never lost to old age) and her air of authority, I carried mine deep on the inside– covering it with insecurities, but never forgetting that it was there. For all the times that I’ve stuttered and gotten clumsy when I feel social pressure, I’ve always been confident that it doesn’t matter. I now know just how self-centered people really are, and I know that more often than not they are too busy with their own insecurities to notice me worrying about mine.

While my grandmother and I didn’t see things the same way, we eventually came to understand each other. What worked for her wouldn’t necessarily work for me, and while she liked control and having things done her way, she learned that I could do things my way and still have them turn out just fine. The greatest lesson that I’ve learned from her is that even when people legitimately care about you, and want you to do well, they can still give you bad advise. People can truly want you to be happy, and want to help you get there, but if it doesn’t feel right for you, it probably isn’t.

Thanks for all you’ve done for me and taught me over the years, Gram. I’m still learning, and I don’t intend to stop. My life journey would not have been complete without you playing such a huge part in it. I still intend to bike around New Zealand someday, something we had long ago talked about doing together sometime. When I do I’ll remember you, and all the advice you’ve given me along the way. I’ll only follow the bits that relate to the bikes though! I love you Gram!

About mindofthemasses

S.G. is a creative scientist that often ponders the state of the world in sad confusion. Befuddled by how far from harmony the human race has come, she tries to make sense of it all with intuition, reason, and above all else an open mind.
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