Women’s History Month: A Woman I Admire (part 1)

Women’s History Month: A Woman I Admire (part 1)

March is Women’s History Month and I thought what better time to talk about some outstanding women who have inspired me throughout my life.

Women’s History Month focuses on the impacts women have had in history and society as well as the barriers we have broken through for equality, a path, that we are still on today in many different areas.

I decided to make a two-part series because while there are so many women whom I admire for their talent, barrier-breaking, and persistence, that are well known — there are so many lesser told stories of strong women we know and love in our personal lives.

In the first part of my Women’s History Month series, I will be talking about a special woman in my life whose life story continues to inspire and motivate me to persevere when things are tough and to focus on keeping my softness and not letting life harden me.

My Grandmother

1917291_1028539770964_1049701_nIf you have been following my blog for a while then you will have heard me talk about my grandmother a lot here before. As a child, she really was one of my biggest influences, and although her life was cut devastatingly short when she was 66 (and I was only 11), her impact on me was lasting, and I continue to this day to learn things about her that I didn’t know. I am truly blown away by her life story, her bravery, and her consistently kind demeanor.

As a young woman in the 1960s with three children, one of them only about a year old, she traveled across the ocean from where she lived in Açores to the United States in order to work as a maid for a few months in order to make some money. Life in the Açores at that time was not easy. They were struggling to get by, and like many had the dream of making a better life for themselves in the United States.

196207_1313381931840_1266891_nThe fact that my grandmother made this trip alone shocks me! I am 26, around the same age she would’ve been, and the thought of traveling to an entirely different country – alone, leaving my children behind in order to savor an opportunity to inch closer to a better life is terrifying. Talk about bravery. She was a strong woman. She stayed with some family that had already immigrated to the states and worked for a few months in order to bring home some money to get her and my grandfather closer to their dream.

Another story about my grandmother that touches my heart is about the time my grandfather brought home a piglet. As I mentioned earlier in this post, they were struggling. To be able to bring home a piglet was a big deal. The intention was that my grandmother would raise the piglet into a robust pig and then my grandfather would slaughter it for meat when the time came. Hearing, even writing that out feels so savage to me – but I know that is because I am so fortunately privileged to never have had to be in such a position. But this was the reality for many families on their island. They had six children to feed, it was necessary.
My grandmother, bless her, became attached to the piglet she was raising. How could you not? She cried when it was time for my grandfather to slaughter it and she could not bear to hear it.

My grandparents finally did get to immigrate to the United States in the late 1970s, six kids ages 2 through 15, in tow. They arrived in the thick of winter, during a blizzard. Can you imagine that? Coming from an island climate to blustery New England winter? They moved into a third-floor apartment and found work in the factories, my grandfather a janitor and my grandmother a stitcher in a clothing plant.

l4c4e1b43-m1xd-w1020_h770_q80They saved until they were able to purchase their own home in the south end of New Bedford. Their home was an 1880s Victorian they purchased via auction. Because the home was purchased via auction, it was fully furnished from the previous owner (an elderly woman who had passed away and had no next of kin). This was the perfect situation for my grandparents. Over time they purchased their own furnishings and got rid of most of the old but after they both passed away I learned that there were a few things they still had from the previous owner that they never got rid of, because well, it still had a use to them! An example of this being an ornate floor-length mirror in the entrance hallway.

11121734_10200443313282595_6069341297114828207_oMy grandmother wound up retiring on the earlier side due to some ailments she suffered. Prior to when I was born my grandmother had a botched procedure on her legs which left her with painful nerve damage that made walking difficult. All my memories of my grandmother are of her walking with a cane due to this. But this didn’t stop her from being a wonderful and involved grandmother. I spent the majority of my grade school years at her house during the day or after school while my parents worked. She raised myself, my brother and my cousin since we were weeks old. My cousin and I were born only 9 months apart, and my cousin had colic. Looking back I can’t believe she raised 6 kids, then 3 more grandkids, two of being us so close together in age! But she (and my grandfather) did it with grace and so much love. I never felt like an inconvenience to them and I knew I was so loved.

I have known some admirable women in my personal life. But I chose my grandmother for this post because I have never met a woman like my grandmother since she left this earth. She left such a special impression on me. I could only dream of having the delicate balance of soft and strong that she possessed.

My grandmother never allowed the circumstances of her life to harden her. She survived countless struggles. She raised six children and then 3 grandchildren. She traveled to a strange country all alone in her mid-twenties – during a time where it was less common for a woman to do so. Through the ups and downs of life, she persevered and maintained a kindness, a serenity about her that I truly admire.

I never met a person who knew my grandmother that didn’t like her. I also never heard my grandmother speak ill of anyone.

When my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer that quickly spread, our family was torn apart. She was a true matriarch. She was the glue that held the family together. Siblings always have quarrels but they behaved while she was around. That changed when she (and my grandfather only 4 years later) passed away.

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My grandmother’s cancer battle was 9 months long from start to finish. She didn’t deserve it. But who does? Still. I think about how she could easily be alive still today based on age alone. She’d be 80. There are plenty of 80-year-olds alive right now.

I wish she could’ve been there when I graduated high school, or when I got married. I wish she could’ve met my husband and my daughter. But, the thing is, I believe, I really do, that in some way she has “met” them. She has “been” there. She and my grandfather both have been with me along the way in spirit.

The best thing I can do now for her and my grandfather is to never let them be forgotten. My daughter knows them as her angels. She knows who they are. I am convinced my grandmother had a hand in Julia’s quick turn around after her birth injury – we got the good news that she would be able to be discharged after a 6 day NICU stay – on my grandmother’s birthday. The little signs have been there along the way.

My grandmother was strong and soft. That isn’t something that many people can master. She was the kindest and most admirable woman I have ever known.

When I think of strong women and impressionable women, women whose life stories fascinate and inspire me, grandmother’s story comes to mind first. She may not be known by the world, but I am committed to speaking her name, sharing her story and making sure that my daughter and future generations know the bravery and strength that we were born from.

Women are inherently strong.

Female stories matter.

This was (only part of) my grandmother’s story.

Talk to the women in your life, learn their stories. You might be surprised at what you learn.

 

Sending love & light,

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One thought on “Women’s History Month: A Woman I Admire (part 1)

  1. This was a lovely dedicated piece to your grandmother. Brought tears to my eyes truly did. Miss my grandmother’s daily too.

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