Her youngest brother was captured as a prisoner of war in World War 2. She lived through the Great Depression and personal betrayals of many kinds. Yet she was the most joyful person I’ve ever known.
Born in 1911, long before internet, cell phones and even televisions were invented, my Grandma Anne missed living a full century by only a few months. I often asked her if she’d ever dated Moses or Noah. She didn’t, by the way, they were just friends.
When her parents couldn’t afford to feed all 4 of their children, they sent her away to live in a convent. Not easy for a young child, I’m sure. But, when she spoke of that time it was never with bitterness or hatred. She adored her mother, spoke of how cute she was, and knew that her mother suffered more at the separation than she. She faced challenges all through her life, and sang her way through them. Loudly.
Her son, my father, started traveling frequently when I was about 10. It broke my heart; the goodbyes filled my heart with gloom. But occasionally, my grandma would come to stay with us. Instantly the house lit up like a baseball stadium at night. She talked or sang non-stop. Why were we surprised? What else could we expect from a performer? Onstage she stole the show. Offstage, she just showed-off. There was no sitting quietly for Anne.
She went on to live with us while I was a teenager, greeting me daily with the song:
Smile, darn ya, smile
You know this great world is a good world after all
Smile, darn ya, smile
And right away watch lady luck pay you a call
Things are never black as they are painted
Time for you and joy to get acquainted
So make life worthwhile
Come on and smile, darn ya, smile
Every day I told her how annoying it was and every day she’d pull me in close for a hug. She knew it secretly made me happy. She could see right through me – even rebellious teenagers need love, sometimes more than anyone else.
I initially named this post “Living with Joy”, but I think it’s more accurate to say that my grandma actually lived in joy. Joy wasn’t a companion she invited in occasionally; it was more like a bubble that surrounded her body and moved in concert with her through life. Now that’s a way to live!
When she was in her early 90’s, she looked in the mirror and complained that she had wrinkles. Really, Grandma? I laughed and said: what do you care, you’re in your 90’s – you’re SUPPOSED to have wrinkles. But she’d go on, polishing her nails, wearing her bracelets and jewelry every day. Not to impress you. If you didn’t like, it she didn’t care. She did it because it made her happy.
My grandma passed away about 10 years ago. I think of her almost every day. My goal is to brighten someone’s life even half as much as she brightened mine. Then, mine will also be a life well-lived.