I knew right away who I would write about, because I’ve actually been wanting to write this post for quite some time. But this is not an easy post to write. Mostly because by the end, I’m pretty certain tears will be involved.
In fact, I’m pretty certain there are already tears in my eyes…yes, yes, there they are. Right on cue.
Taking a deep breath. Okay.
That’s her in the pink, sitting next to my mom, and yes, that is little old me all cuddled up in her lap. I couldn't have been more than 2 or 3 in this photo. (P.S., the dude with the mustache? Totally my dad!)
Grandma O was my mother’s mom.
Both of my grandmothers played a major role in my life growing up, and I almost feel wrong writing about one without mentioning the other, but I will save Grandma A’s story for another day.
When I was very young, Grandma O and her husband moved to the United States, leaving their families behind in Portugal, so they could try to settle down and start a better life for themselves, and so they could one day bring those same families over here, to provide that better life for them as well.
I don’t really have any memories of my maternal grandparents from when I was a young kid, except for the occasional letters and gifts they would send to us in Portugal.
When I was 10 years old, however, they were finally able to bring us over to the U.S. and it was then that I would truly meet and get to know Grandma O.
Grandma O was a teacher in her youth, and she was the only college educated adult in my family at that time. I was also a bit of a braniac child, loving to read and learn and discuss matters of the world at large, so it’s no wonder that Grandma O and I would form a special bond.
I have such fond memories of spending hours discussing books, and culture, and so many other topics with her. We would never run out of things to talk about, and I marveled at her worldliness, and wanted to know everything she knew.
Grandma O was also the most stylish lady you will ever meet. In her small 5 foot frame, with her tiny size 5 feet, she was always put together so perfectly. With her adorable dresses, dainty shoes, and always matching jewelry. There is no doubt my mother (an equally stylish lady) got all her style savvy from Grandma O, and I, in turn, inherited it from both of them.
Grandma O also loved Hollywood. She loved television, and she loved celebrities. It was with her that I would discuss the latest celebrity gossip. She subscribed to People Magazine, and would save each issue after reading it for me, so I could then devour it, and we could discuss the particulars. To this day, I cannot ever see an issue of People Magazine and not think of her.
Oh there are those tears again, someone hand me a tissue…
In the United States Grandma O worked on a production line at a computer company. Her teacher’s certificate from Portugal held no value in this country. But she was a hard worker, and on top of her job, she volunteered teaching Portuguese at the local parish to children.
She was a sweet woman, full of love, and life and vigor, but she was no pushover. My grandfather is a difficult man. I love him to death, and am eternally grateful for his presence in my life, my only living grandparent. But he is a difficult man. Grandma O, however, took no crap from him. She was the type of woman who let him think he ran the household, but everyone (including grandpa) knew she was the boss.
Everything changed when she got sick. My grandmother battled cancer for over 6 years. In that time period, I was in my early 20’s in college, I watched her suffer tremendously, with grace and dignity. I watched her change from the lively, intelligent, strong woman I knew and loved, into a diminutive, subdued victim of that horrible disease.
I would go over to her house every single day to spend a little time with her. Every day. I knew I needed to soak in every moment I could, bundle together all the memories possible, gather as much knowledge and history as was available from her.
My grandmother inspired me in so many ways, I couldn’t even begin to tell you. But one particular lesson she taught me, I hold near and dear and has shaped the person I am, the way I live my life, every single day.
Toward the end of her struggle, I had a conversation with her in which she said to me, very intensely “Do not wait to live your life. Your grandfather and I saved all this money so we could enjoy ourselves after retirement, we waited, and now I won’t be around, we’ll never get that chance. Do NOT wait. Live your life now”.
So I do. In honor of my Grandma O, I treasure every second of every day. I waste nothing in this life, no moment goes by unnoticed. I live life by my own rules, and I don’t always (if ever) follow status quo, but I always follow my grandmother's advice: I LIVE EVERYDAY.
I miss her dearly. I miss our talks, and I’m saddened that I have been unable to sit and share with her my many adventures since she’s left us. She would have LOVED to hear all the details. And I believe she would be proud that I am living my life the way she inspired me to.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go re-apply my eye make-up. ;-)