Lessons from Our Grandparents

“At 33, I’ve already spent more days without my maternal grandfather alive than with him, and the same will soon be true of my maternal grandmother. Growing up, our Harnett County homes separated by just a quarter-mile walk through family land, it seemed impossible to spend a single day without them. I cherished my grandma’s grilled cheese sandwiches so much that I stopped by for one (crusts removed, of course) before school each morning for an entire year while she’d fill me in on the previous day’s episode of The Price Is Right, our midday show of choice when I played hooky. I sometimes wished to grow up even faster so I could join my grandpa in drinking beer and cussing.

“As the tangible mementos of their lives have faded and frayed, I find their memories live on in the folks with whom I’ve surrounded myself. Their unwavering integrity, tremendous work ethic, sly senses of humor and abiding love for friends, family and animals are all qualities mirrored by many of my friends and family while I strive to do the same. I never got to drink a beer and cuss alongside my grandpa, but sometimes it feels pretty close.” – Spencer Griffith, OutreachNC contributing writer

“My grampa was my first superhero.  I thought he was about ten feet tall and could do anything.  He used to sit with me on his lap on a rocking chair on the side porch and talk to me like an adult.  He had many tragedies in his life yet he handled the good and the bad with a calm strength.  I was 10 when he died yet I still feel his presence most days.  I hope I have inherited some of his many good characteristics along with his genes.” – Ann Robson, author and OutreachNC columnist

“When I was younger, I went almost everywhere with my Papa. He was my best friend. One memory that I recall better than others is an odd one. He and I would go to the dump together, and he would sing this song, ‘To the dump / to the dump / to the dump dump dump,’ over and over again. It sounds crazy – I mean, what kid wants to take the trash out and enjoys it? He made all things fun. Looking back now, I realize he made an impact on how I view things today. Because of him, I try to find positive in all that I do, even if it’s as simple as taking the trash to the dump.” – Ashleigh Thompson, Aging Outreach Services (AOS) Care Concierge

“My great-grandmother Winifred Medley was a big inspiration to me and sparked my passion for working with older adults. I keep a framed photo of her in my office that shows us sharing a birthday celebration – we are both June babies. Summer at her house was always a treat. She made us homemade chocolate pudding – with lumps. As I got older, she had to leave her home and be placed in a nursing facility. That experience had a profound impact on us both. It was difficult to see her in that setting, but I went to visit as often as I could, wrote letters and thought of ways to encourage her. It was in that nursing center that I gained  comfort level for interacting with other residents and the aging in general. I treasure those memories now and credit my career choice to my relationship with her and the journey she faced as she grew older.

“My grandmother, Mary Medley, was summer to me growing up. We traveled to her small town in Illinois on summer breaks and holidays. We loved going to her house. She and my grandfather often took us camping and spurred my love of the outdoors. She played games with us all the time and can still beat me at cards, although now I think she uses age to her advantage with perfectly timed memory lapses. What really stays with me and all of our family, is her faith. She prays for us and her faith is strong. She shares her experiences and relationship with Christ and we are all stronger because of it. You just feel good when you are in her presence. This year we will celebrate her 95th birthday. You never know how many birthdays remain, so you can bet I will be with her, soaking up every ounce of her wisdom, love and faith.” – Amy Natt, AOS CEO and OutreachNC publisher

“The gifts my great-grandmother and grandmother shared with my mom, who passed down them to my sister, myself and our children, are still alive today. The joy of a home filled with music – there was a song for every occasion; the magic of quiet time – especially in my grandmother’s den where her floor lamp  filled the room with stars – the perfect place for your imagination to soar; the kindness of letting someone help even when you are very busy – there was always room for my stool at my grandmother’s kitchen counter; the excitement of an adventure – a backyard or neighborhood to explore or a simple drive to run an errand that included a stop at the bakery for a cookie; the love and respect of  family, friends and community; and the understanding that a strong faith will guide and comfort your journey. Life lessons shared through the generations is truly a gift and a blessing.” – Susan McKenzie, AOS Marketing and Public Relations Director

“I can just talk to her on the telephone for an hour, and she just keeps right up. I hope I can be like that at 96. She’s just a genuine, good-hearted woman. If there was anyone I would like to fashion myself after, it would be her.” – Dana Quick, AOS Administrative Assistant

“The grandparent I was closest to was my Nana, my father’s mother. She lived with my family for several years as I was growing up and we became very close during this time. My fondest memory of her was of the time we travelled to Montreal, Canada to see the summer Olympics in 1976.

“Four years prior, in 1972, we watched the summer Olympics on TV together when I was 9 years old. At the conclusion of the closing ceremonies my Nana asked me if I wanted to go see the Olympics in four years when it was hosted in Montreal. Of course I said yes. She saved up the money for the event tickets, two train tickets and a private room rental for one week. I had the most amazing time of my life watching the different events in person. We especially enjoyed watching the equestrian and track and field events. The best part was sharing the experience with my favorite grandparent.” – Sherri Eder, AOS Billing Specialist; AOS Vacation Cottage Property Manager

“Compassionate, caring, inspirational and loving are just a few words I would start with to express the impact my grandmother, Bertha Scott, known to everyone as ‘Granny’ had on my life. For as long as I can remember, my grandmother had been diagnosed with glaucoma. As I grew up I watched her vision slowly get worse, with her losing her ability to drive and needing help with simple things like writing checks and reading prices at the grocery store; yet she never complained and was always so grateful for assistance.

“Everything I learned about being the person I wanted to become came from what she instilled in me as a child. She never judged and found good in everyone she met. She taught me firsthand how to cook from scratch and was always open to letting me help in the kitchen. She taught me the importance of my faith and that I would make mistakes, but I could grow and learn from them.

“Living next door to her was an added bonus, I was at her home almost daily. She never flinched when I would bring multiple friends over and we would raid her kitchen. Her home was always open to everyone and everyone that met her; she quickly became Granny, too. She once looked at me and said ‘I have so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and I have children that call me Granny that just adopted me as their Granny.’

“As I became an adult, the love she showed me only grew more. The impact she made on my life only inspired me that much more to want to work with older adults. As her health declined and she needed more and more assistance, I knew that if I could help others in the same capacity to be able to keep their dignity and provide them with a safe, efficient way to age then I would always have a piece of my grandmother with me. I owe who I am today all to her!” – Angela Boles, AOS Care Manager

“I don’t know much about my dad’s side of the family, but I do remember his mom – Rachel Deaton Hill, my Granny – very fondly. She’s been gone a long time, but I remember her as a sweet, gentle woman who lived in a little brick ranch house in Carolina Beach. She loved her friends and she loved travel. I still have three little zoo animal statues she gave me when I was very young, and they’re treasured possessions. She was a pianist, and I’m a musician as well. I like to think that music was as personal and essential to her as it is to me.

“My mom’s parents were Miriam and Pete Parham – or, as I called them, Hey-Mama and Papa. They only lived a mile away, so I knew them better, but our relationship was unnecessarily formal and distant. Papa in particular was very difficult to impress, and I know I tried really hard as a kid and a teen to make him proud of me. I never succeeded. In a lot of ways, he was the classic Southern grandfather: contrary, loud and always in the right.

“As I think about it, I realize that by being so impossible to impress he accidentally taught me to work hard at things that are important to me and not worry about the approval of others.” – Corbie Hill, OutreachNC editor-in-chief

“Nonna. Poppa Nonno. Nanny. Gramps. Four names for my grandparents as different as their influence on me. Each one taught me lessons that shaped my outlook on life, in ways they didn’t even realize. As I grow older, I think now maybe they did know exactly what they were teaching me.

“Nonna was an interesting woman with a beautiful Genovese accent. She fell in love with Pop, a rare Protestant Italian. They met while he was serving in the US Army in WWI. They fell in love and she left all she knew to move to America and marry Pop. It was a bold move for a Catholic to be in love with a Protestant. The lesson here was to be strong and follow your heart.   

“Pop, fluent in seven languages, became VP in the international department in a bank. He assisted immigrants with their financial challenges by speaking with them in their native languages. He was a deeply religious and kind man. He taught me my first lessons in oil painting and helped me see the world through a painter’s eye. All the while, he was explaining God’s amazing hand in what we were painting.

“I was named Jessie, for my Nanny. Let’s just say it got me out of a lot of trouble growing up!  She, too, was an amazing woman. Nanny was talented in many ways. She was a great hostess, cook and card player and was never afraid to laugh at herself. She instilled in me a love for many of these same things. My first cooking lessons were by her side, although I never got the hang of making a good cornbread.

“Then there’s Gramps. If he opened the car door and looked at me, then we were off and it didn’t matter where we were going. A true politician, he served his country as a legislator and Speaker of the House in West Virginia for more than 30 years. He taught me the responsibility of an educated vote and to know my own mind.   

“As a sixty-something now, I look back at the extraordinary people and think they were so young when they lived through WWI, the great depression and WWII. I am proud to be a part of them.” – Kim Gilley, Village Printers owner and OutreachNC creative director