A Grandmother’s Legacy

Heidi Cox,

Author of Just Moms: Conveying justice in an unjust world.

*** Gold Prize Winner  Inspiration writing contest ($50 gift card). View winners all this week at Oregon Women’s Report.

I can still feel the warm rush of sunshine on my face as my body flew through the air on my grandparent’s tire swing. I can still hear my grandmother’s voice, warm and resplendent, reciting her favorite Robert Louis Stevenson poem as she pushed me:

“How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!”

Recently I was pushing my own son on our swing. As I watched his little body soar as mine once had, I recalled the words of the classic poem. But I couldn’t remember past the first stanza. So a few days later I visited my grandma at her retirement home. I asked her if she recalled the last two stanzas. “Well, I think so,” she smiled.

Her voice, now more warbled, recanted the verses that she had tucked into my heart as a young girl. In that moment I realized that my grandma is the epitome of Stevenson’s poem. She is a child at heart, and chooses to see life through the eyes of a curious, expectant child.

At each stage of my life my grandma has taught me about living life like a young child – soaking in every detail, asking a hundred questions, taking joy in the smallest things, making everything into an adventure.

As a little girl my grandma sang me goofy songs, took me to the fair, and out to ice cream. But one of my favorite memories is swimming at the local pool with her. Not one to watch from the sidelines, my grandma jumped right in with me, and let me carry her around like a baby – something I thought was so silly and fun.

Even as a young adult I enjoyed being with my grandma because she was up for anything. One afternoon my grandparents taught me how to make donuts. We deep fried the balls of soft white dough, and then blotted the grease off each donut. Finally we shook them in a paper bag filled with powdered sugar. Then we ate them, giggling at the white sugar marks on our lips and noses.

A few years ago my grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so my grandparents had to move out of the home they loved into a retirement center. Yet my grandma never complains. She has not stopped living. She comes to all my children’s birthday parties, celebrating the lives of those she loves. She’s still able to joke about why people her age shouldn’t buy green bananas. “We might not be around long enough for them to ripen,” she laughs.

Just as a swing goes up and down, my grandma’s life has been full of laughter and tears. But she never wallows in self-pity or bitterness. Instead, my grandma lives each day with child-like delight and expectancy. And it’s this legacy of whimsical wonder and joy that I hope to fold into my own children’s lives.


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