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The Midlife Sage: Redefining Grandmother


My grandmothers were the quintessential matrons: they grew lush gardens, baked pies, canned peaches, crocheted doilies, and then peacefully passed away in their nineties.

My life has been a bit different, and I just hope I don’t die tomorrow by getting hit by a wine truck while dancing in the street on my way to a book signing event.

My paternal grandmother never owned a driver’s license because she never needed to go anywhere. She could walk to the grocery store and post office, and she was content to sit in her rocking chair in her tidy little house. She finished crossword puzzles every day, read her Bible, and believed her life was blessed beyond measure. She was correct.

My maternal grandmother sewed dolls and grew glorious gladiolas to enter in the Jerome County Fair. She stored the numerous winning ribbons in a shoe box because she was humble, quiet, and unpretentious. Only after her death did I learn that all she wanted in life was to own a piano. I wish I could have given one to her.

Their tough example gave me a strong foundation that sustained me during the numerous personal calamities and monstrous mistakes in my life.

They would be disappointed in my failures but they would be proud of me for having the courage to be independent and tenacious. I can hear them saying, “You can do it. Now get to work.”

In the blink of a wrinkled eye, I also became a grandmother. Both my children have children, and I find this fact a bit disturbing because I still think I am in my thirties. Really, now my daughter and I are about the same age. I want to pluck thirty years off the timeline and pretend the decades never happened. Denial is a powerful emotion. Though I inherited traits and skills from my parent’s mothers, my generation is tweaking the term grandmother.

My children married spouses who already had children, so I became an instant grandmother. And I’m not called Gramma. My daughter’s daughter was born in Hawaii, so I became Tutu, the Hawaiian name for grandmother.

I look at my granddaughters with wonder and worry.

What will their future hold? Can they travel the world, employ their talents, and be strong in relationships? Will they treasure the self-sufficient strength of their great-great-grandmothers? Will they be able to grow a garden, bake a pie, preserve peaches, and crochet doilies? Okay, no one needs doilies anymore, but the other skills are important.

I hope they can learn from this weathered Tutu that they also can have a job, chart their own path, own a business, and challenge the boundaries. They can go beyond my grandmother’s wildest dreams, and I relish their feisty and vibrant spirit. I imagine the day when they get married and then bring me a laughing baby to rock. I think Great Tutu will be a fitting name.

I adore my little granddaughters, and we laugh together as we sing and tell great stories. I am not that adept at canning fruits and vegetables, but I can encourage them to take the path less traveled, color outside the lines, and question authority. They come from a strong heritage of tough women, and I know my grandmothers are watching over them whispering, “You can do it. Now get to work.”

Read more posts by Elaine Ambrose, award winning author. Elaine is a blogger for JenningsWire.


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