My grandmother turns 100 next week. I’ve had the privilege to know her a quarter of her life. When I was born, I had an apgar score of 1 (10 is a perfectly healthy baby and 0 is a dead one). Needless to say, my parents were stressed. My grandmother and the rest of the family drove down from Kentucky to see the first grandchild and to support my parents. From what my mom tells me, my parents were still in shock and were extremely cautious and careful with me. As the oldest of 9 and the mother of 4, the matriarch of our family scooped me up in her arms, held me tight, and lifted me in the air, “You’re going to be my miracle baby!” My mom said I smiled.
Growing up, I knew my grandmother was special. As fond as I am of words and languages, no word can do her justice. If you saw her smile or tasted one of her chocolate chip cookies, you would immediately know that “Mary T” is different. Her blue eyes still light up with curiosity when she hears about my students in China or about my time in San Francisco. She’s always laughing and eats ice cream almost every day, except for during Advent and Lent. Even as she turns 100, I’ve never thought of her as old. When someone asks her, “What was your favorite age?” She chuckles and responds, “The age I’m at!”
She has the strongest faith in God of anyone I’ve ever met and says her rosary daily, praying for every member of our family and friends with their specific needs at that time. She also is the most grateful and humble person I know. Every time I call, she mentions how grateful she is to have a loving family, how grateful she is to have a warm home, how grateful she is that you called. She briefly mentions the arthritis in her hands but quickly adds, “I thank God every day for my good health.” She ends every call with several “I love you’s” and a “sweet kiss.”
My grandmother’s also human. She has had more than her share of hard times and has plenty she could dwell on, but she chooses to love and let go, which next to patience, is my greatest life lesson. My grandmother earns less than $1,000 from social security a month, but if you asked her what she wanted for her birthday, I know she would answer “my family.”
Grandmother: I love and respect you more than words could ever express, and I strive to be half the woman you are.
**Note: Thank you to everyone for your thoughtful and kind comments. My grandmother has since passed, but her memory lives within all the lives she touched. You can meet her in the 6th episode when I interviewed her in 2006.**