The Tao of Grama: a belated eulogy


My grandmother had more common sense than anyone I've ever known or will ever know. Pragmatis in extremis, you might say. And was she proud of it. As well she should be. I'm only just beginning to realize how much she has influenced me and how positive was that influence. 

It didn't always seem so. She used to say "I speak my mind" To a lot of people that translated to judgemental, unfeeling, harsh, critical. She's been referred to as an old bat or similar appellative beginning with b. Folks would say, "oh Marilisa, your grandpa's so wonderful, nice, giving, caring and your grandma... (cricket cricket as they hunted for words). 

She acknowledged all that with a laugh and a shrug. I think she actually liked her mouthy, badass reputation. She never defended herself or why she said what she said and she never backed down. And she never willingly hurt anyone.

She didn't candy-coat, was never fake-sweet but also not self-righteous, smug nor hypocritical. She never shot her mouth off just to hear herself talk. And she had precious little time for those who did. She was never gratuitously cruel. Just matter of fact. And I have learned over the years that she was usually right. 

We used to butt heads regularly. She, the "dyed in the wool" (her words) "trust no one" Republican and me the liberal, "feel sorry for everyone" Democrat. But we loved the heck out of each other. I like to think she even respected me. I know I sure as hell did her. It just took me awhile to realize how much. 

Being polar opposites, you would think that I would be the first to fault grandma when she criticized this or that. And sometimes I did if I thought she was being unfair. But the funny thing is she rarely ever was. As I look back I cannot recall a single bigoted, prejudiced or even generalized statement. She simply spoke what she observed and she usually said what everyone else was thinking but didn't have the balls to say.

Grandpa used to chide her for lack of tolerance. I don't think it was intolerance so much as impenetrable practicality. She just didn't suffer foolish behavior gladly. Where Grandpa and I would give second, third, 26th (too many) chances, she would say "leopards don't change their spots." And invariably she would be right. 

When she predicted that so and so would repeat the same error, he usually did. When she said my little brother would never stay the night at their house, because he always cried to go home once he got there, the family behaved as if she was the bad guy. Ultimately, he never did stay the night and fussed until Grampa took him home... every time. He saw a way to drive a rift between the adults and being a kid he seized on it. But God forbid Gram call him out or suggest maybe they NOT cater to him. 

So what we saw as nihilistic negativity, I now see was just realism. She did not set herself up for disappointment and did not want me to either. Actually, I now realize,  it sets the other person up for failure, expecting them to do things they are uncapable of or unwilling to do. And it gives them weird, unhealthy power over others  (see, Grandma, I finally get it).

Funnily enough, her pragmatism is hailed by 12-step groups as being very mentally healthy. Grandpa's and my rabid optimism and waiting for spot change, not so much. It's called acceptance of what is and St Francis is thumbs-upping you, Grandma

It's not that people can't change and she'd be the first to admit this. It's that they aren't going to simply by you clicking your heels together and waiting to go back to Kansas. Actually you have nothing to do with them changing. You can't be living your life around the hope that they will.

I'll even go so far as to say (listen up, Grandma you're going to love this) that you really shouldn't worry or care if people change. Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed. Spending too much time obsessively trying to control it, is self-defeating and not good for you or the other person. Doing things to produce a desired result in others is kind of passive aggressive and sick.  Better to let go and live your life as is best for you. Can Grama get an amen? 

So Grandma you've been gone 15 years. And virtually no one remembers you. You didn't do anything of note. But in a way you did everything for me. You inspired me to stand for things so I wouldn't fall for anything. You empowered me to trust my instincts and have faith that I could do things I needed and wanted to do. 

Maybe time has gilded my memory. You probably weren't as perfect as I remember. You did upset me so sometimes.  But then I upset me a lot more and I'm KNOW I upset you.  But you definitely weren't the Gorgon you pretended to be either.

You weren't given to raving praise but you were honestly proud of my meager achievements and did not hesitate to show it. I remember when I gave the valediction at the Honor society banquet, how you came running over to place a gold necklace around my neck. Right in front of everybody like you wanted to make a big splash of me. That felt really good. 

I don't think I said thank you as much as I should have. I hope and think you know that I loved you and love you still. I am proud to have been one of the few people who really knew you. Miss you. 😘 Marilisa


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