The March of Time

As I wrote today’s date in my morning pages notebook, it occurred to me that today is my grandmother’s 100th birthday. She passed away in 1992, so she’s not here to celebrate, but it set me thinking about the way life moves along “in it’s petty pace from day to day” until, before you know it, a century has come and gone. I can look back now on the trajectory of her life, an ordinary girl from a small Kentucky town, second in a line of six daughters, and see the ways her character impacted my mother’s life, and mine, my son’s, and even his children and their children beyond.

In reality, the legacy of an “ordinary” person is anything but ordinary. I always credit my grandmother for my love of books and reading, because it was her voice that first brought me all the stories I loved to hear~Peter Rabbit, The Bobbsey Twins, Heidi, The Little House Books. She was always willing to read to me, and even though I never saw her reading anything for herself, she would drop whatever she was doing if I came to her with a book in hand. And it was she who provided the genetic “imprint” for my piano playing. After my own piano was delivered, I would sometimes catch her when she thought no one was listening, gloriously banging out the old hymn tunes she had once played in the little frame Baptist church next to their old farmhouse in Millwood. I would listen in fascination, seeing and hearing a completely different aspect of her, but an aspect I now recognize in myself.

There would have been very little about life in the first half of the 20th century to prepare her for life in the 21st. Always overly cautious and fearful of change, she would no doubt have been horrified by modern life, particularly the way people (meaning me!) spend so much time away from home. For her, if you were fortunate enough to have a nice home, you should be satisfied to stay in it. I didn’t quite understand this, until I learned that the only one of my grandmother’s sisters to leave home had contracted tuberculosis, which she passed on to two other sisters, and to their father, all of whom died within one year. And yes, as much as I love to travel, I often have to tamp down those little demons of fear, nagging me that I would be better off at home.

Yet, so much of the rest of her philosophy of life is also mine~that loving your family and taking care of them is the most important work you can do, that caring about your neighbors and helping them is what it means to be a Christian (whether you go to church or not!), that you should never be satisfied with anything less than your best work, whatever it is you’re doing. These are values that came through her to my mother, and to me, and that I hope I’ve passed on to my son. Basically, she was just an ordinary girl from a small town in Kentucky, but she left me some pretty extraordinary gifts, for which I’m grateful.

Now that I’ve spent half a century on earth myself, I’m more than amazed at the swift passage of time. Thinking about my grandmother today reminds me to make the most of the next half of my century, and to continue her legacy to me in a way that will honor her memory into the future.


10 thoughts on “The March of Time

  1. I’m sure your grandmother was proud of you in 1992 and she would be more proud (if possible) now.

    Your work ethic, kindnesses shown to others, and love of family speak to the very things she found important. And I can only imagine the smile that would cross her face to hear you play or read the things you’ve shared with us (and also those I’m sure you haven’t).

    Okay, maybe she would have disapproved of the travel 😉 but overall I’m sure she would be pleased.

    I have confidence that you’ll do amazing things over the next 50 years.

  2. How wonderful that you knew your grandmother and can look at her life through child eyes and adult eyes. And the way she dropped everything to read to you is an amazing gift, I’m sure as much for her as for you.

  3. Your post made me stop and think about the impact my precious grandmother made on my mom, me and my girls.

    Your grandmother is beaming as she watches each generation blossom from heaven.


  4. I think we reach a point where we begin to really look at past generations in our family in awe.
    As corny as it sounds they truly are our link to history. As my grandfather was dying this past August I asked him to retell me some familiar stories from his youth once more. I wanted to here it as it was experienced. With the loss of my husbands father so suddenly this past fall I also feel such an urgency to get everything I possibly can out of all of my elders and people I connect with in general.

    On a side note-thank you for you wonderful thoughts and insight on my ‘baby’ post. Your perspective means a lot.

  5. Grammas are the best I strive to be as good as mine when my time comes, she taught me to cook sew, cre and be honest with myself and others.
    I thankyou for the memories.
    Happy Grammas its what the world needs.

  6. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother – no doubt she’d be very proud of your accomplishments and how much you honour her legacy with your piano playing and writing – and just in general being a wonderful woman, wife and mom!

  7. Heidi. I’d almost forgotten how much I loved Heidi when my own grandmother first gave it to me. Thanks to you–and to your grandmother–for reminding me of that wonderful story, and so much more.

  8. What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful gramma on her 100th birthday.
    I’m sure she’s looking down at you and smiling.

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