Receiving a legacy

I recently found out some things about my grandmother that I didn’t know. I’m trying to figure out if I had heard these details before and just forgot, or if they are in fact new to me. Either way, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t know more about her sooner.

We called her Grandma Gladys. One of my cousins couldn’t quite pronounce that name at a young age; all he could get out was “Gaga”, and that name stuck, too.

I knew she was a teacher, but I thought it was at the high school level. I didn’t know she had a master’s degree in English and also taught at Oklahoma State. A university professor in my family tree! My grandfather, her husband, also taught at OSU and was some kind of dean there — he even has a scholarship named after him. What kind of family was I born into?

Of course, I knew my grandmother loved OSU. I would catch up on the news of the football team before going down to see her on holidays, so I would know how she was feeling. However, she not only followed the football team, but baseball, wrestling, and probably just about every other collegiate sport, too.

I knew Grandma Gladys liked to write. As a child, though, I thought all she wrote were birthday cards, lengthy Christmas cards with poems about her family in them, and a couple of stories about us. What I didn’t know is that she wrote articles for magazines I’ve heard of, like Ladies Home Journal. She’s a published author! Who knows what she would have done with her own blog.

I knew she was dramatic and could tell a great story. I discovered, however, that she founded and directed a drama group in her church called “The Wesley Players”.

All this is making me think about the legacy I have received. A grandmother who writes, acts, and teaches. I guess I should no longer be surprised that these are things I like to do, too. And yet I didn’t know that she was a source for these things, and I wonder what her sources were. From where do we inherit our desires and abilities? Perhaps it was built in to me, or maybe I absorbed it while listening to her weave a story, or watching her eyes light up as I told her one of my own.

My grandmother died on Thanksgiving Day. We got to see her that morning in the nursing home, to say good-bye. She wasn’t doing too well, and I was thinking that this might be the last time I got to see her. All the same, it was bittersweet to hear the news that she had passed. She was always so full of life, and now she is experiencing the Fullness of Life.

Every time I sit down now to write something, I think of her. In some ways, it makes it difficult to write. Now I think, what would Grandma Gladys think of what I’m writing? Is it good enough? Would she approve? But even as I write these words, I remember her joy and appreciation at hearing of the slightest accomplishment I had done. She was always so very impressed at any little thing that it made me feel like I had scaled Mount Everest, rather than just got an A on a paper.

And maybe that’s the most enduring legacy. Grandma Gladys made me feel I could do anything, that she had the utmost confidence in me, that I was sure to succeed. She passed this on to my mother, who has never stopped making me believe that I could do anything I wanted to, and would do it well.

Solomon tells us that a good man leaves an inheritance to his chidren’s children. This good woman has done that, and more so. I am passing on the legacy to my own children: the love of family, and the love of story, both of which were so much a part of my grandmother’s life.

2 thoughts on “Receiving a legacy”

  1. My brother wrote this:

    I remember going to the house on 1002 Lakeridge every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and summer. I remember us driving over the hills as we approached her street, seeing the water tower, the anticipation of the visit. It was always special. I remember the front porch with the hide-a-key on the stoop, the storm door I thought was fancy, and the curtained window in the front door. And Grandma Gladys was always there to greet us with her wonderful, rich smile. She never seemed to change – ageless forever as a permanent fixture in our lives. The house too, never changed. I remember the same wedding pictures in the entry way – looking at mom and dad and never knowing them to ever look that young.

    My earliest memories include Grandad Daddy, sitting at the dinner table telling stories and jokes, which I rarely understood. But he would laugh, snorting loudly at his own humor. I sat quietly in my wooden chair with the red cushion. If you were lucky you got one that swiveled. My two ancient great grandmothers sat silently against the wall. I don’t recall ever hearing them speak. After dinner, Grandma Gladys, great-aunts Lola and Zella, and even Mom would have a cigarette and talk in the sitting room by the dinner table. More stories, and politics. Darren and I would investigate the lego set or anything else of interest in the closet behind the television. I remember the small statue of the odd monkey with glasses sitting on top of the TV – where did it come from?

    One year we walked in and the kitchen was carpeted — something a household with kids would never have done. But nothing else was new — ever. The pictures on the refrigerator were always the same. The old rotary phone on the counter, the bowl of nuts too, never changed. They were probably the same nuts there for 35 years. The silver tea set in the living room rattled as you walked through, next to the bright colored round pillows on the cream couch (pillows we were never to throw at each other, of course. This was the living room, after all). I was rarely allowed into Grandad Daddy’s room. It was a small, triangle shaped room crammed with his desk, files, books, stacks of papers, notes, plaques, photos, shelves – the holy of holies. As an adult I went in on every visit, sitting in his chair, remembering him as best I could.

    One of my fondest memories is sitting in the big circle on Christmas Eve and unwrapping all the gifts. The circle used to be in the club room, but then for years it was in the living room. That evening seemed to go on for hours. It was pure joy for a kid, getting gifts from adoring great aunts. But looking back, seeing everybody enjoy the whole evening together was really the greatest gift, and even then I reveled in it. I can’t get over what a profound joy it is to belong to a family that really enjoys being together. What a gift we have had — belonging and loving. It was what families are meant to do.

    All my memories of the house are special because it was Grandma Gladys’ house. She was fully alive. She was funny and dramatic in her speech. I enjoyed listening to her talk and relate some story from her travels and teaching. She always wanted to know what I was doing, and was always somehow impressed with it. It’s not that I was impressive, it’s because she was our grandmother.

    Grandparents have a unique place from which to view life. They’re done stressing over child raising. They’ve ceased fretting and disciplining, ever watchful over their children as parents are, me included. They are able to simply enjoy the child – their discoveries, adventures, and mistakes. Grandma Gladys loved me like that. As she listened to the latest in my life, I always felt like I could walk on water. I felt special. She would stand in front of me, put her hands on my shoulders and look into my face with a beaming smile from heaven. Surely this is how our father in heaven looks at us. With an unfettered, unconditional, gushing heart of pure love. Someday I’ll have grandkids, and with God’s help and her example, they’ll leave their visits to my house also feeling the unmistakable love of God. They will feel special.

  2. I never knew Grandad Daddy, but I remember Grandma Gladys, and one of my memories of her from when I was much younger. My sisters and I would come in and give Grandma Gladys a hug, then rush to the candy corn and nut bowls that never seem to get empty.

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