I was born taller than my Grammy

I was born taller than my Grammy. But my whole life I’ve looked up to her.

Elaine Maxwell was born something like January 26, 1915 in Central Missouri. She’s about 97 years old. She did have a gaggle of brothers and sisters. Her father had a reputation of being a mean one. She graduated from Kirksville with a teaching degree. She married later in life because my grandfather, although a judge, was apparently a little slow to propose. They had three daughters. My grandfather, Sie, died somewhere around 1961 I think to complications with diabetes.

Some people when faced with tragedy or less than favorable conditions turn inward and let that bitter root grow. But not my Grammy. She chose the opposite. She chose to still live, to still care for her family. I know who I am because of her. I was born the first grand daughter into a matriarchal family but don’t get the picture of mean spirited heavy handed woman ruling the roost.

The women of my family are Scotch-Irish. I was taught to work hard and not whine. I was taught to be  stubborn with a smile. I was taught men are nice to have around but not necessary.  I was taught family traditions and family meals in particular were important. It wasn’t so much the quality of the meal, because I don’t come from a long line of great cooks, it was the quality of the time spent together. I was taught to be identified by membership to a church and to serve whole heartedly there. I was taught to be entrenched in my community and that politics weren’t all bad. I was taught that conflict isn’t always productive and sometimes it’s more efficient to smile and move on. I was taught a positive attitude had more value than money. I was taught the very basic joy of life was to read and to reap the benefits of a proper education.

My Grammy has always had a powerful influence on my life. I could do no wrong by her. I always knew she was immensely proud of me. When she had very little she gave me everything.I feel very special and blessed by this but all of my cousins, all of her daughters, all of her friends and family will tell you the same thing.

However for me, Grammy’s house was a safe refuge of routine and solitude when my mother was going through cancer. The smells of homemade cinnamon raisin bread, black coffee, and line dried laundry filled me with peace when nothing else could. I can still feel her cool, arthritic hands rubbing my temples to ease away my chronic headaches.

My Grammy is now 97 years old. She has shrunk to about 84 lbs and I would put her at about 4 ft. 8 in. As far as I can tell she is the only one in her nursing home that still uses a walker and not a wheelchair despite being the oldest person in the building. She eats chicken strips and french fries like their going out of style, reads the paper, and still follows her yellow dog democrats. However, she does repeat her questions over and over again. But I love her and so I will answer her 27 times that I live in St. Charles and yes these are my 3 kids. I adore her so I will repeat 42 times that I don’t teach anymore but I still work in the community. I’ve taught my kids that they will smile and tell her over and over again their names, ages, and grade. AND I will flaunt at my cousins that she still knows my name, she still knows my daughter’s name. Of course we’re named after her but still.

So despite her age, despite her fragility, my Grammy is still my hero. When I get testy and negative I shame myself for not being more like her. When I yell at my kids or frown all day I’m often reminded that I have absolutely NO memory of her ever engaging in the type of behavior. When I don’t feel like I belong any where and I’ve lost track of where I’ve been I have my Grammy to ground me.

Who has made an impact on your life?

Do you have someone like my Grammy to cheer you on?

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