Thursday, June 3, 2010


After having her pacemaker put in, at age 92, my spry great grandmother-- Granny, asked her doctor, as she was being discharged from the hospital, when she needed to see him again. The doc, who at the time looked to be about 28 years old, patted my 4 foot, 10 inch tall Granny on the head and said he'd see her in a few years to "change her battery". Granny, without missing a beat, replied "Young man, I am a very thrifty woman. I'll be back in seven years." Then she turned on her heals and marched out of the hospital.

I remember thinking the doctor was kind of rude and had no idea who he was dealing with. My Granny may have looked like the little old lady from the Tweety cartoon but she was no shrinking violet. And she was indeed, VERY thrifty.

Like at holiday time-- Granny was always very specific about her "wish list" from our family. It was the same every year:

--A large jar of Tang, the orange mix the astronauts drank
--A Girl Scout calendar because it had big squares for each date to write in
--School pictures of each of her five great-grand children
--Three bars of Ivory Soap, which would last her the entire year
--A box of Ritz Crackers-- I'm guessing these lasted all year too!
--Plus-- this was the important part-- a minimal amount of scotch tape on the wrapping paper.

Opening presents was a long process with our Granny because she carefully opened each package and saved the paper so she could use it to wrap our presents in the following year.

When I was really young I used to be amazed that a jar of Tang would be considered a treat but was tickled that Granny was so happy. Years later, I finally caught on to the drill and made it a point to use the tape sparingly.

I was in my early 20s when Granny passed away at the happy age of 97. In all that time, I never, ever remember hearing her complain, even when she slept over at our house filled with babies and toddles and eventually loud teenagers. Not one cross word or ruffled feather was felt or implied.

Over the years, through the aging process, she had plenty to complain about but her "ailments" were her version of a well-earned badge of honor. She was "even keel" as she said, and always kept moving forward, even if the steps were tiny at times.

Looking back, I wish I'd paid closer attention to Granny and asked more questions about her life and how she managed to stay so positive. My memories are few and boarding on silly in the scheme of things. I remember playing bingo and eating Eskimo Pies together, her lace-up black shoes and old fashioned glasses, and her gnarled hands from arthritis. I do not remember her words of wisdom, advice or opinions on life in general.

I was too young for a while but as I grew into my teens and early 20s I was too silly and full of myself to really connect with Granny on a meaningful level. And today, that makes me sad. I missed out on really knowing a strong, spirited and caring woman. But my Mom learned a lot from Granny-- She was very much the mother-figure in Mom's upbringing.

She doesn't usually save wrapping paper but my Mother collects bows, ribbons and gift tags so well that I swear I've seen some of them passed around our family for the past fifteen years. Mom takes great pride in it-- Not so much from a "thrifty" point of view but because she knows her grandmother would be proud of her for reusing things-- And it makes her feel closer to Granny.

My mother also takes pride in her swollen knuckles from osteoarthritis because her Granny had it too. Same goes for her poor hearing, her ability to reuse a tea bag countless times and using a shoestring to hold her hair back from falling in her face-- All Granny-isms.

These days, I grouse about my hands inching closer to the shape of my Mother and Granny and wish I had the same lightheartedness about it. I do not like the direction and appearance my arthritic hands are headed, and I do not view them as a badge of anything other then getting painfully old-- Literally. Perhaps I missed the "aging gracefully" gene. Or maybe I just should have paid closer attention to my Granny when she talked to me as a young adult.

When my baby niece was born last week my mother became a Great Grandmother. The first question my siblings and I had was if she would assume the "Granny" title although she looks nothing like the little old lady usually associated with the name. "Absolutely not!" was Mom's response. "There can only ever be one Granny."

It reminded me how important it is to listen to my mother and the lessons she's still teaching me. And along the way, I'm hoping I'll grow to love the fact that my hands, although increasingly disfigured, still serve me well enough to take care of myself like they have for the amazing and strong women of my family before of me.

Who should you have listened to?
Welcome to - Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit: © Marzanna Syncerz -


  1. What a beautiful tribute to your Granny. My grandma was called Bahquine and there will only be one like her in this line up as well.

  2. I think you may have soaked up more of your Granny's wisdom than you give yourself credit for. You are lucky to have known a great grandmother...thanks for sharing your memories of her.

  3. I loved this post Joanna...and I read it carefully to absorb every word...Yes, my hands hurt too and my mothers own hands at 90 are about as gnarled as they can be you are not alone...Your Granny sounds so cool...lucky you to have her. May her sweet memory live on..

  4. What a beautiful post! It's such a tribute to your granny and your Mom.
    I never got to know either of my Grandmothers. One passed away when I was 1 month, the other when I was just 4, so in answer to your question, it would have to be my Mom. She was 69 when she passed away, 7 years ago. The older I get the more I realize, how wise she was. I wish I had asked more questions and paid more attention.

  5. This post is written so beautifully and lovingly (as are all your posts) but this one resonates deeper. Probably because we all realize as we get older that maybe we didn't get to know our elders as much as we would have liked because we were too caught up in our own lives when we were younger. If we don't take the time and ask the questions while we can, we could end up missing out on a lot.

  6. Your granny sounds like she knew the secret of enjoying life with all the changes that come. Wish I had known her.

  7. Tears are dancing across my face as they have just last week,.. seeing my now almost 94 yr old granfather,....

    I have nothing to say really,..

    other than i keep bags and bows too

    Our oldest living generation is truly our greatest treasure,...

    for me it is not who should I,..
    it is who I will,..

    All my <3

    and btw your hands are stunning, I just know it!

  8. My mother never complained, either.
    I whine in response to anything, real - or imagined.
    And sometimes I whine in advance just to make sure no one dares to miss the point of my specialness.

    Once again, you gentle style of writing offers insight and a happy correction.
    Thank you!

  9. What a gorgeous post Joanna, you were so lucky to have such a lovely Granny.
    My maternal grandmother was like yours.. never a cross word, never complained...just got on with life. And life was hard for her... she raised 10 children and worked on her dairy farm till about age 65!
    Women of that era just took what life dealt and were thankful to be alive I reckon.

  10. Having strong and able women as role models has obviously been a blessing for you. Maybe you didn't ask some questions of Granny that your would like to now, but you learned from her example, without words. I am sorry to hear your hands are giving you pain. You reach out to so many people and lovingly caress with your words we don't realize you actually have hands that cause you pain.

  11. Wonderful post...and your Granny was fabulous! Love the "isms".
    My Grandma Gaines died when I was 8 years old. She was quiet and reserved and elegant and never complained even though she suffered from chronic pleurisy. I wish she could have stayed longer so I could have known her better.

  12. enjoyed your tribute to your granny, she sounds wonderful.

  13. a beautiful tribute...i never really had a gramma like that...

  14. I am sure you observed much of the many lessons Granny would of verbally told happened to me. There was a time I looked in the mirror and saw my mother and now I look in the mirror and see my grandmother....and I hope I can be half the woman she was, kind, caring, loved God and her family and was always willing to help anyone.....I do have her arthritis but I complain.......:-) Hugs

  15. Gnarled women's hands made me think of my next door neighbor, Claudine. She died about 5 years ago but before then, even though she could barely use her hands, she still weeded, cleaned, cooked and even poured concrete for her garden. Women are amazing...what they do for their family.

  16. my grandmother. oh, how i miss her.
    this is beautiful!

  17. I would have loved to have met hour granny. What a wonderful tribute. And nobody can blame you for not looking forward to painful joints. Your mom is simply insane.



  18. I'm sure you are like both your mom and your granny more than you know. I loved those precious memories of her and the family.

    What does your mom want to be referred to since she is now a great grandmother?

  19. how i loved this... i think this one is my favorite of all.

  20. What a great post. I enjoyed it very much. Granny did come across as an indomitable matriarch and she has obviously passed down her genes even if you don't recognise it.
    I must admit to having some of the paper saving/recycling instincts myself..... If you grow up with not much...... it seems like terrible waste to bin it!
    Wish I didn't grumble so much about my arthritic hands/wrists that do plague me & prevent me from doing what I want!!!!!!!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  21. Love your Granny! You have been so blessed to have such wonderful women mold you....lesson learned priceless....I need to start listening more. Have a wonderful weekend.

  22. What a great tribute to your granny! I loved reading it. Thanks for sharing the memories.

  23. Joanna,

    this was incredibly beautiful. You've gifted her soul to me.
    I think people are different in their sensitivities. I often wonder about this myself. I look to my mother-in-law often, for her courage and steadfast acceptance of life as a daily gift regardless. Yet , I know I am not her.
    I like how you wrote about clinging to the idiosyncrasies as a way of being close. I'd never thought of it that way. How tender and powerful.

    thank you

  24. a loving tribute to the women in y'alls family, sugar! y'all are blessed because the experience isn't always so lovely. xoxoxoxo

  25. A beautiful moving tribute to the strong women (and hands) in your family.

  26. Hello Joanna,
    What a lovely post, and a tribute to your Granny.

  27. JJ,

    I was very moved by your writing and the loving and tender way you did it. Just fabulous. I have goose bumps.

    Unfortunately, my grandparents all died before I reached the age of 7 but my mom told me stories..and she inherited a lot from her parents.

    She loved to grow her own veggie garden, as her father did. I have a photo of mom with her oxygen on..out next to her tomatoes 2 mos before she died. She used to can and preserve like mad.

    I love to grow veggies too..and tomatoes are my favorite. Canning tomatoes always makes me feel close to my mother.

    I wish I would have asked her more questions about my grandparents..I thought we had time.

    Your grandmother sounds awesome...and I save wrapping and my husband has to have his Tang!

    So happy to have stopped by today.

  28. our "be young forever culture", it is hard to be proud of our age spots when everyone else is busy trying to bleach em out.

  29. You should interview your mother and create a book for the family. Ask her all the questions about her, her childhood and the tales she knew about her mother.

    Why have one of your nieces or nephews have the same regret you did for not asking the questions.

    I have very interesting stories from my dad about being in WWII.

  30. Love your post. Your memories are an honor to your granny! I wish I had talked to my grandpa more and that I had learned more about him and his thoughts. We all have regrets like this, it seems!

    Thank you for such a lovely tribute and reminder.

  31. You are lucky to have the opportunity to meet and be with your great grandmother,

    I love grandmothers. Thinking about it, it may not be long before I am one.

  32. What a wonderful post. I adored my grandmother. She spoke her mind, even when my dad would give her a hard time. She would come up with retorts to his comments without even having to think. She was so much fun. I too wish I had taken the time to learn more about her and her life though.

    My mom was not the strong woman that her mom was. My mom was more gentle, more quiet...but every bit an amazing woman.

  33. That was beautiful. I miss my grandmother too.

  34. Oh, how lucky were you to have a great granny in your life! I always think now of how many questions I'd like to ask my Gram, who's been gone for 18 years.

  35. My mother was almost 39 when she had me and is 93 now, so she is of the generation that most of my friends' grandparents belonged to. Maybe it's something about living through the Depression era or something, but I never got that extreme thrift/recycling thing. I'm not wasteful, but when it comes to things like scotch tape, I figure "they'll make more." The woman's "new" living room chairs were purchased in 1966. The old ones were wedding presents in 1939!

  36. This is a wonderful story.

    I wish I'd talked with my paternal grandfather more. I remember just exchanging two sentences with him.

    I rarely saw either set of grandparents -- well, my paternal grandmother was by fairly often, I guess. I make sure my kids see their grandparents on a regular basis.

  37. People were wiser back then. My great gram lived at about the same time yours did, I'm sure. People didn't complain and whine back then because they were God-fearing, hard working souls who knew that bitching and moaning didn't yield a thing.

    I've always been interested in learning about the adventures and lessons of others. Older folks and I get along rather famously because they like to tell and I like to listen.

    If I knew then what I know now, I would have listened to everyone.

  38. I too wish I had listened more to my grandma, grandpa and mom and dad. I remember as a child saying to my grandma...tell me about the olden days but can't rememer a whole lot about what she said. My grandma wrote me a letter when I first got married and I have her journals. I have to find these things!!

  39. Great post, and before I forget I want to say how fab those lifeguard towers are a few posts below this one. So bright, cheerful and happy making. They should have thought of that years ago.

    Anyway, your post reminded me of my great grandmother, Lily. She too was a tiny little lady and she lived with two of her daughters forever in Brooklyn NY. You could never drop by without one of them whipping up a fantastic pot of Italian meat sauce. Meatballs, sausage, mushrooms, garlic, the whole works. Then you had to sit and eat. Oh Heaven!!! Lily lived to be almost 100 and she too was a spunky little gal. At the time I was in my 20s and of course all full of ME so I did not pay attention to anything other than the lovely food and the pine nut cookies that followed. Lovely memories..... xoxoxo

  40. Well it's sort of a tough one, really. First of all, your granny sounds like my two grandmothers combined. A hybrid of sorts :-) On one side there was Pat, who had lived through The Depression -- which I suspect your grandmother had also -- and had that same extreme thrifty. On the other is my 4'10" Scottish Nana, 95 and still cheery.

    When you say you wished you'd learned more about her, oddly enough it may not have really been possible. She was from a generation of women schooled not to talk about themselves much, or their feelings. That's a guess on my part, but gender studies was a focus of mine, and it would fit.

    She was as known as she wished herself to be, I suppose. I had one older woman put it to me this way, back when I was collecting interviews for a paper: "Honey, back then we didn't sit around and think about why we needed to do things, we just knew that we needed to do them. People your age drive yourself nuts doing that!" Then she offered me some sweet tea, and told me all about her grandsons because talking about herself must have felt odd. Instead, she talked about her father, husband, daughters, granddaughters and grandsons.

    Sounds like I'm painting a picture of the long suffering women, living her life in service to others, but that wasn't it. She really owned those achievements as her own, as things she made possible...and she had FIERCE pride in that.

    Someone who works with my husband just had knuckle replacement, by the way. A thought that both horrifies and thrills me because, like you, I'm eventually headed down that path.

    I think your grandmother likely taught you a great deal about thrift, and grace. As for the rest of it all, maybe like my long ago interviewee she'd have told you she just did, because she needed to.

    What a fun post this was, by the way. Conjured images very easily. I particularly got a kick out of the giant tub o' Tang. It really was such a vile concoction, and yet, distinctive enough to be sort of fun. "Yeesh...but it's Tang!"

  41. Isn't it amazing how no matter how we try, we eventually become our mothers and fathers. I also have my mothers hands. And voice and legs. I just hope I can also have her 85 years of active living!

  42. What a sweet recollection of your Granny and your mom. Cherish those memories.

  43. I loved this so much! I suppose I should have paid more attention to my grandmother. We were pretty close but I would love to have written accounts of her childhood, early years on the farm, etc.

  44. I loved reading your tribute to your Granny. Although I never lived in the same place as my much beloved grandma, I used to talk to her every week and spent lots of time visiting her, also as a teenager. She passed away while I was pregnant with my daughter, and I wish they would have met. I also wish that I had known her better on a personal level like you do with a friend; I sure would have loved to hear more of her stories.

  45. Memories are so special, just like Pandora’s Box that can be opened when the need arises.
    You were listening that’s why you can remember.

  46. Uncles! I should have listened to them. I DID listen, I did not HEAR! But I remember their wise counsel to me many years ago.

    Parents? Forget it.

    You write too good. So MANY bloggers are real writers, I am finding.

    Thank you for being here Joanna.

  47. What a great post - I am sure your Granny is proud of you. Congratulations on your new baby niece! I have had my first and only great grand nephew here visiting for the week (9 mons.) - what a joy!

  48. I should have listened a bit more to my grandmother too, but I know she "travels with me" anyway....smiles.

  49. I should have listened to my grandmother, my grandaunt, and my beloved aunt.

  50. And now I'm finding renewal in seeing my own daughters growing up into mature adults, and showing talents and characteristics my own parents had. Is it that my parents taught me and I am teaching my daughters?

  51. I wish for you to have the same reflection as your Granny and I have a feeling that you do.

    What I mean by the above is that I'm sure she had suffering, but it's not what she shared.

    I hope this makes sense to you... it's most likely that I haven't written it well.

    take care and this was lovely to read.
    best wishes

  52. Beautiful tribute to your grandmother. Most of us probably should have listened more than we did. More important is what we did hear.. and adopt.

  53. What a wonderful post. When I became a mother for the first time, I wished that I had known my Grandma Draeger. So, I wrote all of my cousins and asked them to send me a memory of Grandma (along with a recipe.) While compiling the cookbook (which includes their memories), one night, I had a dream in which Grandma Draeger came to me and took me to her house, where we spent an entire day just hanging out in her kitchen and gardens. It was wonderful. This morning, Kyle came downstairs and told us that he got to see Grandpa 4444 in a dream and got to get a nice hug from him before he woke up. May you have a similar experience one day...

  54. I love how you listed the memories there, though. She sounds special. I once took a tape recorder and got my grandma's reminiscing on tape. So lucky to have that.

  55. I think I love your Granny.

  56. I wish I had talked more to my grandmother and written down some of her stories. She had been a young girl when they came to Oklahoma for the "run". Bet she had some tales to tell.

  57. A beautiful post - perhaps you remember more than you realize? Congratulations on the potw.

  58. You may think you didnt listen well but I just read this post and I know you did because now I know maybe the best part .. the really important part - she inspired love and respect in her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren .. no small feat!

    Congrats on the POTD mention, well deserved!

  59. What a great post. Certainly one that hit home for me this week as my hands are swollen and painful. I, too, feel the need to listen to my mother-in-law at age 97. I think she has much wisdom to impart.

    Congrats on POTW.

  60. This was a wonderful post, full of admiration and rich with detail I liked your granny and I didn't even know her! By all means, write down what your mother tells you about your ancestors. You and your descendants will benefit greatly.

  61. Wow! Hope I have deserved a tribute as lovely as this from my grandchildren...but not quite yet.

  62. I can't believe I missed commenting on this wonderful post!

    What a wonderful woman your Granny was, and how lucky you are to have the warm memories that you do have.

    Thanks for sharing this special piece of your life with us.

  63. Beaitiful.
    Congratulations on a well- earned POTW.

  64. Grannies are very special people. Mine on my mother's side was wonderful - she died aged 93 and when asked "To what do you attribute youre longevity?" she replied, "I always drank a bottle of stout after putting a red hot poker in it!" She also had loads of great sayings like, "He who goes borrowing goes sorrowing!" and "Laugh and the whole world laughs witj you - weep and you weep alone!" I'll do a post about her one day. When a new baby was born into 'The Clan' she insisted on hoiling it's head up high and rubbing a gold sovereign into it's palms, meaning he/she will do alright in the world. She nearly dropped my nephew and nearly brained my daughter! Fortunately both are OK but not yet millionairs! LOL

    Congratulations on the POTW award - gosh I nearly typed POW (meaning prisoner of war)
    Hugs ~ Eddie

  65. I feel the same about many people who have passed away in my life -- if ONLY I had paid more attention to the lessons they could have taught me!

    My grandchildren call me Nana, so when my first great-grandson was born 2 years ago, my daughter-in-law said that "Great-Grandma" didn't really fit me so they were going to call me "Nana the Great"! I love that. :)

  66. What wonderful memories. I didn't have grandmothers living when I was born but I did have aunts that were surrogate grandmas to all of us. One Aunt, in particular, was a rancher with rough hands that worked as hard as any man. I always loved her hands and wanted mine to look just like hers someday.

  67. Brialliant, just brialliant! You so have to write for a publication of some sort. Your writing is too good not to share widely.

    It must be our similar age but I identify very much with what you write here. I think about my grandmother a lot. She was 94 when she died and was the Matriach of the family for so long her presence is still strong. She always said old age was not for cissys and I think she was right. At some point though we get to the age when we can't wait to tell people how old we are. Like a badge of honour.

    I think I am kind of getting used to middleage and all it brings but it makes me want to achieve and do more almost as if time is running out. It certainly has made me more appreciative of people around me. I am very influenced by my father who is constantly saying do what makes you happy, do not worry because in the end it usually turns out ok, etc etc. We need to learn from others that are eperienced at living I think. And we dont.

    It's really a great time of life when you think about it, the best of both worlds if we let it be that way. Acceptance of aging is a struggle but I am beginning to think can be a beautiful thing. And no, I haven't been drinking!!! Its too early.

    Have a great day! Great to be back reading some great writing that is so much better than 99% of blogs out there. You are a really talented writer.

    And yes, I still go on and on....sorry.

  68. Again, this is hitting home due to the recent loss of my grandmother and the predominance of memories of her on my mind.

    One can never emphasize enough the importance of living each day fully and cherishing our family.



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