My grandmother, who lived for 100 years, had Parkinson's. Throughout my childhood she would send handwritten letters to my sisters and I from California telling us about what she was up to, what Blue the black cat was into or how we were going to meet soon. Her letters were long and she had solid handwriting. Though we visited California yearly, letters from 'the Golden State' were like magic to me, especially letters from my grandmother. She took the time to write these since I was a little boy. As I entered adulthood the shake in her hands had increased considerably so much that the letters were hard to read and had become illegible after that. Phone calls became more popular. She was cognitively intact for the most part.
Though we were far apart from each other, I would visit her on my own every year. Besides my Dad, she was my only other live connection to my Dad's side of the family. This created a great connection between us. The letters from the past were not just letters. They were the time and energy she put in to reach my heart. She took the time to do this from thousands of miles away and kept up our relationship when I was a child. I reciprocated as a young man by flying to her and being with her when she could physically do no more but to be in her walker stroller and soon her wheel chair.
I am grateful to have had these experiences.We would have our conversations. She would let me push her chair down the sidewalk. I would listen to her family story telling. We would have breakfast, lunch and dinner together. There was no rush. Her niece, a stalwart of the greater St. Louis nursing community sometimes let me have a black Cadillac to move around.
Grandma's Parkinson's nor did her increasing physical handicaps stop our relationship from continuing to grow. Having grown up primarily with my mother's Cuban family in Puerto Rico, Grandma's letters and my Dad's constant family story telling served as the backbone of my paternal family identity. Just being with her was enough. She was a daughter of the American revolution and an enduring teacher of history and social studies to practically all of Encinitas, California during her teacher tenure from the 1940's, 50's, 60's till the early 70's. So many people were like this. Active in the community. But it is passe' to be like this and see this much these days. Our lives move much to fast to have a public community life that is about keeping a dream alive by action. What makes keeping a dream great is when we add add our unique voices to the chorus of life.
Is having a community important? Is it like a muscle we have to stretch and tone?
Can you take an action that uplifts and makes your community stronger?
In Clarissa Pinkola Estes book, 'Women Who Run With the Wolves,' it is pointed out that empowered woman recognize the value in recharging and reflecting as individuals and with a council of friends. My grandmother had this. In one sense, her various civic groups or actions to better her community in the Pasadena, Encinitas, San Diego area each represented a separate social entrepreneurship engine co-run by the women in the focused on serving America. It was not just a dream. When she would play bridge with her friends, they were keeping up with each other, recharging, planning and discussing. This led to actions and events in the community taking place.
Having grown up in the greater St. Louis area. The daughter of a minister. She lived in countless communities across America upholding the ideals and principles that the United States of America was founded on. My grandmother was the product of a household were soft skills strength was more important than anything else. Honesty, integrity, humility, resilience, teamwork, compassion, empathy and grit were developed into all the children in my grandmothers childhood home. It did not matter that she was a female or male. What mattered is what she did for her country.
No one has to wait for Batman or Superwoman to show up and save the day every day. Each of us can be Knights (male and female) that become movers and shakers in positive, healthy ways that serve the best interest of our local, national and global community. Plan and do good things that are awesome and unique that lasts for others without looking for credit or advancement.
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