A few days before Christmas, my grandmother passed from this life.
She outlived my grandpa and most of her siblings. My mom and dad, brother and sister and I found plane tickets and an Airbnb and gathered with extended family in Denver for a funeral and a few meals together. Tomorrow her children will bury her next to her husband in Springfield, Missouri where they once raised a family together.
Obviously, this has been a tough holiday season. But in the past few weeks I have thought often of a conversation I had with Grandma a year and a half ago.
Below is a reprinting of my reflections on her and her insights from that conversation, published again in memoriam.
So long, Grandma. Thanks for telling me I had your gift for words and insisting that I write every chance I get. – Brian
A few nights ago my wife went to bed early so I did some dishes and called another woman.
Grandma Opal is 93-years-old and lives in a retirement community in Denver.
While her body is giving her fits, she still has the stories and jokes of a stand-up comedian.
She regularly harasses a woman in her home who constantly complains about the air conditioning being too cold.
She has it out for the lady who once tried to tell HER (the mother of four, grandmother of 8) how to hold a baby.
She told me that the guy my mom almost married before she met my dad was so worrisome that the thought of him “gave me a rash.”
(“Do you often get a rash when you are upset?” I asked Grandma.
“No. That should tell you something about how bad this boy was.”)
After several of these stories, conversation turned a bit more serious. Grandma asked me for a few thoughts on the current political climate.
I would assume that it is rare for grandmothers and grandsons with a 58-year age difference to agree on much when it comes to the happenings in Washington, D.C. so I was careful in my response.
I said a few things about history and the future and perspective and fear and Grandma listened.
And then she said this:
“Yeah. Often people are quick to tell you what they are against – but they never figure out what they are for!”
This is a beautiful observation – one I am assuming comes with a lot of perspective. And in all honesty, I felt a little convicted.
Grandma is right. (“Like usual,” she’d say.) It’s easy to yell. There is little challenging about feigning indignation. We read half an article and pour kerosene on our status updates, throw a match and hide behind the keyboard. But it takes a real courage to stand up and say what you actively want. There is risk in that. There is actual accountability and potential for disappointment.
But I am up for the challenge.
So I have started making a list of some things I am “for.” (It’s a work in progress.)
I am for magic, the impossible, the improbable and the hard-to-believe.
I am for singing along (even if you don’t know the words).
I am for laughing so hard it hurts.
I am for crying at the movies.
I am for working hard.
I am for risking a little a whole lot of the time.
I am for learning by reading, learning by trying and learning by listening.
I am for kindness.
I am for second and third chances.
I am for finally getting it right.
I am for texts that say “I love you” or “I miss you” or “We should hang out”
I am for getting up early and staying up late.
I am for actively participating.
I am for little reminders.
I am for smiling at strangers.
I am for assuming the best possible scenario.
I am for coffee and conversation.
I am for breakfast for dinner.
I am for twilight runs.
I am for smiling for no reason.
Now it is your turn. Add to the list. What are you “for”?