Some Lessons From Grandma

I have been praying for my grandma a lot this past week as she has been wrestling with a bit of bronchitis. As a result, I have been reminded of so many ways she has impacted my life.

My Grandmother has a body that has lived ninety-six years. Her mind on the other hand is as young and energetic as a twenty-three-year-old.

She has lived through the Great Depression, World War I, and everything in-between now, and 1925. She is an incredible woman, with stamina that would take any woman to ninety-six!

My grandmother is a jack-of-all trades, and if she doesn’t know how to do something, she will find out how. She is a researcher, remember, thinker, and as curious as Albert Einstein.

The first impact that comes to mind would be music. Music is my grandmother’s great passion. I started taking piano lessons from her when I was five. She was a perfectionist. I was not. She felt all music should be played exactly as it was written. I liked to make up other parts in a piece (generally because I was too lazy to figure out the right notes in a cord). Grandma knew that though. She gave me finger drills and scales each lesson. She felt the fingering had to be spot on. I had no trouble crossing my ring finger over my index finger as needed. Grandma had her work cut out for her.

I wish I could say I came around to a more precise method of piano playing, but alas, to this day, my sight reading is week and my fingers want to play whatever my brain invents. And very sadly, I still have poor fingering and timing.

But Grandma’s efforts were not a loss. From her, I gained a deep appreciation for music and am determined to pass that on to my children as a life skill. In fact, music is deeply valued by all Grandma’s children and grandchildren as a result of her fervor and encouragement for it.

Education is something else my Grandmother deeply valued. Her father was the principle of the local public school. He held a Master’s Degree in the 1900’s. My grandmother also got a collage degree. For  woman in the 1940’s a college degree was a rare feat. All Grandma’s children and grandchildren also attended college, most of us with graduate degrees.

Education was priceless to Grandma and that value has been passed down from generation to generation. To this day, I am already preparing my children’s hearts to gain an education beyond high school. I truly believe in the value of having a tool or two in one’s belt. Education is a huge life asset even if one never uses the exact skill set he or she attended college to get. College acts like a springboard to greater opportunities. Much more is learned by receiving a college education than a paper degree too. It is rare anyone with a degree ever regrets getting one, but I have heard many regrets from those who did or could not take that path.

Just yesterday, my mother told me of little children in Africa walking miles to school. They sometimes encounter dangers on the way, and often go without food. In our culture of mostly free, easy schooling, it is inevitable that children grow up bemoaning their learning and not thinking of education as a privilege. The whole book of Proverbs speaks of the value of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Education is a great treasure and I know my Grandma sees it as that.

Grandma’s love for education does not stop with formal schooling, she has taught me to never be satisfied with what I know. To her, life is one big education. Grandma is incredibly curious. She wants to know everything about everything. Even at ninety-six she has an i-pad and likes to look up, this, and that. Her life is full of rabbit trails of knowledge.

As a child this made her a favorite person in my life. She was always interested in what I had to say, what I made, and anything that interested me. Everything is so interesting to her. I find my heart pricked if my mind is too occupied to soak in my children’s Lego builds or hear them tell of their dream from the night.

Just like my Grandma, I like to take learning detours with my children. At Grandma’s house we would see a bird at her feeder, even a familiar one like a cardinal, and she would go get her bird book and read us all about it. Later that week, she would drop by an article from the National Geographic. If we see something interesting, we stop and learn more about it. Learning was a constant in her world.

Grandma’s fascination with nature still brings my distracted heart back to earth. Nature is often far too neglected in our busy world. The Charlotte Mason method of education I have chosen focuses a lot on noticing nature in children’s younger years. From admiring little beetles under logs to taking long frolics in the meadow. Nature is truly a gift we have on earth to enjoy. All of my children have various fascinations with aspects of God’s creation. It is such a simple way to point each one to their Creator. Just look what an amazing animal God made! Look how the beautiful a tree is when it is dying! Our God has power over this thunder storm. We love nature, because it points our hearts to the creator.

My grandmother bought all of our children subscriptions to various National Geographic publications for years. She send my children articles on bugs, butterflies, and weather. She will give us old calendars with beautiful photographs of animals and birds. It is funny to see how her passion is being passed on to each generation.

Grandma savors everything and doesn’t hurry herself through life. I do not think I will ever have the skill of noticing details like my Grandmother does, but I think of her often in our world of glossing over generalizations. It is tempting to be fast, to skip over things, to see an image as a whole, and miss the whole point because the point of things is often seen in the details that we miss.

In our rush through life, there stands my Grandma, back by exhibit one, reading through all the information, gazing intently at the art and noticing every color. We rush through our meals and gobble up dessert. But there is Grandma, still sitting at the table, enjoying each morsel of her first helping. We hurry out on a walk, and loose Grandma. She is back at the first mile looking up in the trees with her binoculars.

We rush through life so quickly, I am afraid we will never get quite as much out of it as my grandmother who savors, notices, and is content to let the time pass without hurrying. Much could be learned by my soul if I  slow down taste the food I eat and listen to the people I am with.

Grandma knows how to be frugal. Living through the depression and a World War must have made a huge impact on my Grandmother. To this day she saves everything. She keeps the wax paper our of cereal boxes. Plastics bags are washed and reused. A paper napkin is used for more than just one meal. Handkerchiefs are still her preference to tissues. Grandma is careful not to be wasteful to the point her attics contain piles of brown paper bags, newspapers, empty milk boxes, and egg cartons. There may be a use for it someday.

Frugality is a lost art. This past year, some of us experienced the slight taste of valuing what we would normally waste, as paper products and some food items were scarce. It was short lived and we have returned back to our comforts, but for a time, we might have held a few things more carefully than we generally do. I admit to being a busy, rather wasteful person. Compared to my Grandmother, I ought to be ashamed. I am so busy, taking the time to wash a Ziploc bag crosses my mind, then leaves. I also do not like the clutter of various stored objects being set aside for later use. But as time goes on, I am seeing it as poor stewardship and a huge lack of gratitude. I need to find a good balance of frugality of time and resources and I know I could do better with both.

My grandmother is an incredible person the more I think about it. We all leave legacies to generations after us. The core life values my Grandma has instilled in her legacy are incredible, and have shaped our thinking, decisions, and paths for generations to come. I am grateful to still have a living Grandmother, and grateful for the valuable role she has played in my life!