Today is my birthday. It is also the second anniversary of the burial of my Grandmother, which happened to occur on what would have been her 90th birthday. I will always think about her on my birthday because it was always her birthday first. A thing I was lucky enough to share with her. She told me I was her birthday present and I genuinely saw myself that way when I was younger.
She was at once both a shining example of the tough, stoic farm woman so common in the small towns of the midwest and a soft, artistic soul. We have a number of her paintings hanging in our house – she painted both what she knew and also what she saw in her travels. From run-down country barns to ocean waves, she had a beautiful knack for capturing scenes and colors. Toward the end of her life, her talents focused almost exclusively on wooden angels for church sales and Christmas trees. We have an extensive collection on for our own tree.
I think about her and women like her when I think about what it means to be a woman, a wife, and a mother. She definitely deferred to my grandfather in a way that would feel uncomfortable and unnatural in my own marriage. But she was loved by him in a way that was true and supportive. Looking at their relationship now, I know they were equals even as she outwardly deferred to what he wanted. He always wanted desperately to please her and make her happy. He converted to Catholicism for her and remained a catholic even after her death – singing in the choir and centering their family life in the church, which is a big deal in a small, Lutheran dominated Minnesota farming community.
My grandmother’s life reminds me that its not weak to acquiesce to my partner’s needs and wishes from time to time and reminds me to really see all of the ways that he does the same for me.
My grandmother had an adventurous spirit and loved to travel, but lived her whole life on the outskirts of a small town. She built a community of friends and family and raised five children on a farm. She may have enjoyed life in a bigger city, it’s hard to know as she never said. She laughed often and was content and comfortable with her life and where she was. It’s a good reminder that the trappings of life are just extras. They’re wonderful and I’m grateful for every single one of them, but they’re EXTRA. The point is the people around me and the relationships I’ve formed with the people close to me.
So I think about her and it reminds me to be grateful today on my birthday. To absorb the love that others offer to me and to store it for the more difficult days when I don’t feel it as much. To offer myself some love and to just focus on the things that make me happy on this day of all days.