100 Years of Living and Loving: A Tribute to My Grandmother

Me and Grams 100th birthdayBarely five feet tall, she is a force of a woman.  The sparkle in her eyes not dulled by age, but by the disease daily robbing her of the memories she has always held so dear.  The 36,500 days she has lived on this earth are one heck of a milestone…. her spine straightening with pride each time you remind her, “Me? 100?  Well, I’m pretty good, now aren’t I?”

This is a woman born when Woodrow Wilson was President.  Born in 1913…the same year as Rosa Parks… the same year Harriet Tubman died.

She has lived through World War I and World War II.  The Great Depression.  The Korean War.  Vietnam.  The Gulf  War.  The War in Iraq.

You and I have read about the first Nobel Prize going to Einstein, the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, the Spanish Civil War, the Hindenburg, Steamboat Willie hitting the big screen, Pearl Harbor and D-Day- but she was ALIVE for all of it.

She was 48 when the Berlin Wall was BUILT and 76 when it came DOWN.

My small people are often surprised to realize cell phones didn’t exist when I was a child… they are perplexed by the idea of a phone being attached to the wall and can’t imagine a life without a remote control for the TV.

Grams Small PeopleBut imagine this…My sweet Grammie was born before the pop-up toaster was invented.  And the blender. And sunglasses. And deodorant. And Bubble Gum. AND CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES.

She was in her 30’s when chemotherapy was invented and older than I am now before the polio vaccine, before bone marrow, lung or heart transplants.

And yet, never can I remember her admonishing, ‘back in my day….’.

Grams Mum 100 Years Old

Grammie – the day before she turned 100!

She is the one grandparent who had a permanent presence in my life…visiting our family for a month every Christmas and three months every summer.  She would appear bearing Rice Krispie treats… still the very best I have ever had… a secret ingredient I’m sure was included as the taste has never been duplicated for me.  She would rearrange the kitchen, making my mother crazy.  She would sleep in my room, so I had to share a room with my brother – something I never appreciated at the time.

An intensely private woman, she rarely shared moments of her own history… that is, until the Alzheimer’s began to take its toll when I was an adult.  I always knew she raised my father, her only child, mainly on her own.  She left my grandfather when my my dad was fairly young – something unheard of at the time.  I can only imagine the strength of character this required.  She battled and survived breast cancer and a mastectomy in her 60’s – but also – to my knowledge, rarely discussed it.

But, as I entered my 30’s, and the Alzheimer’s chipped away at some of what I imagine to be her more difficult memories, a softer side to her was revealed.  She was prone to end phone calls with me by asking, ‘Darlin’?  Isn’t love GRAND?’.  I sensed a joy in her I had never known.  She even sent me a letter talking about her job ‘writing for the paper during the war‘. Neither I nor my dad had ever heard this story. My mom began to record conversations with her….chatting about her history, her life, her story.  What a treasure that we have these moments.

Grams WeddingIn closing, I will share with you a story that, without a doubt gives you a glimpse into the beauty and character of this now 100 year old woman.  For my wedding, she wore the same dress that she wore to my parent’s wedding 30+ years before.  My dad did everything he could to persuade her to wear something new(his gift!), but she was determined.  She had ‘only worn it once, Jon!’ and ‘it still fits, Jon!’ and ‘it’s back in style, Jon!’.

And so it was, that this adorable little woman graced my wedding day and the dance floor with her presence in that beautiful 30 year old dress – that yes, still fit and yes, was still stylist as ever.

It would be difficult for me to list the many, many ways she has graced my life with her beauty, her wit, and her wisdom.

We were supposed to be there today to celebrate her birthday, but my small dude was diagnosed YESTERDAY with the flu – making the trip impossible.  He can’t travel and we can’t risk infecting her or anyone else.  I am heartbroken that we aren’t there… but in spirit, with her always.

I love you, sweet Grammie.

Happy, happy 100th birthday.

  • http://waldowsocial.com DJ Waldow

    (as in, reading that gave me the chills)

  • http://waldowsocial.com DJ Waldow

    Chills.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=589290388 Nadia Carriere

    I am sitting here on the Tarmac at Toronto Pearson airport getting ready to take off to Montreal to visit my own grandmother who isn’t well and your beautiful post touched me so deeply that I am now a complete puddle of tears. We are blessed to have been touched by these incredible women. So. Blessed. Happy Birthday to your Grandma Danielle!

  • http://twitter.com/Anne_Hogan Anne Hogan

    This brought tears to my eyes. You are so lucky to have her, and so lucky that your mom thought to record all of those conversations. Happy Birthday to your Grammie!

  • http://twitter.com/TheShoppingMama Kate, Shopping Mama

    I’m so sorry that you weren’t able to travel to be with her this weekend, Danielle. This is just beautiful. What a life she has LIVED. Truly lived. I love the story of the dress at your wedding. So something my grandmother would do.

  • Victoria

    I’m sorry you can’t be there to celebrate with her but what a beautiful recap of things from her life and time with you.

  • Danielle Smith

    Thank you, DJ. As I was writing it, I found myself more and more amazed: She is 10 days younger than Rosa Parks… She was born the year Harriet Tubman DIED…. she was older than I am now when the Berlin Wall was BUILT, let alone in her late 70’s when in fell…. she is this remarkable, little spitfire of a woman. Thank you for letting me share her..

  • Danielle Smith

    So grateful, Anne… I know I am so lucky to have her and I AM so grateful my mom has recorded her.

  • Danielle Smith

    Thank you so much, Victoria… it was so amazing to sit here…thinking about all the history she has seen, the life she has lived. And I’m grateful she is surrounded by family right now – even though we can’t be there.

  • Danielle Smith

    Kate – you are so right! She has LIVED. And seen and done… it is truly extraordinary. And I am so disappointed we aren’t there, but I know she is being loved right now by my parents and brother.

  • Danielle Smith

    Oh my friend – you give that grandmother of yours a HUGE hug from you AND me. We are so blessed, aren’t we? Thank you for your sweet words. I will think of you as you travel. xoxo

  • http://janiceperson.com/ Janice Person

    I so miss my grandparents! This helps explain so much of what they offer us. Celebrate fully Danielle!

  • Lauralee Hensley

    How wonderful to have a grandmother so wonderful still in your lives. Wish you could have been there to celebrate, but as a mother herself she realizes in her own way that your little one needs your care to get well. Wish I could fit into clothes from 30 years prior. Wow, that takes dedication to taking care of yourself to be able to accomplish that. Happy Birthday to her and more if it be God’s wish for her.

  • Anne Flournoy

    Beautiful post, Danielle. Have to say your grandmother looks more like 80 compared with the people I know. Lucky you to have so many generations around you…not to mention to have inherited their good genes!

  • niri

    Oh Danielle, this is beautiful and reminds me how I miss family. Any family. Seeing your grandmother’s pic shows me how important it is for family to stay in touch. I know she knows you want to be there but what a lovely tribute to her here

  • Jo-Lynne Shane

    Such a lovely tribute, Danielle. Reminds me much of my own grandmothers, who did not live to see 100, but left such a heritage with me. xo

  • Danielle Smith

    Oh Janice – I so completely understand. She is the only one I was ever fully connected to. Thank you for this.

  • Danielle Smith

    Lauralee – thank you so very much for this. She really is a treasure. And my parents have been so good about keeping me ‘in the loop’ with the celebrations. It was definitely disappointing, but she had a wonderful weekend.

  • Danielle Smith

    Oh Anne – I so appreciate that. She is such a delight. She has always been such a spitfire – so stubborn, so full of life. I remember laughing with her more than anything..

  • Danielle Smith

    So grateful, my friend. It was so disappointing to miss being there – but my parents read this post to her and it meant so much to me to be there in spirit. xoxo

  • Danielle Smith

    Thank you, my friend. It is amazing to consider how they have touched our lives and left such an imprint, isn’t it? xoxo

  • Danielle Smith

    Thank you, my friend. It is amazing to consider how they have touched our lives and left such an imprint, isn’t it? xoxo

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  • RobG

    Hello Danielle just came accross your post on Gplus and I just wanted to say god bless her for keeping your grand ma save all these years. Thank you for such a great article

  • RobG

    Hello Danielle just came accross your post on Gplus and I just wanted to say god bless her for keeping your grand ma save all these years. Thank you for such a great article

  • Danielle Smith

    Rob – thank you so very much for this – I’m so grateful. She is an incredible woman. We’ll be seeing her this weekend to celebrate her 101st :)

  • http://www.ivantemelkov.com Ivan Temelkov

    That’s amazing! It’s important to cherish family and keep them close to heart. Hope you have an awesome trip and fully enjoy the celebration.