My grandmother was a very wise and patient person. She had to be. She was the calm center of the hurricane that is my family. There was always some crisis that at least half the family had to get involved in that my grandma would patiently listen to, make the right noises from time to time, and get everyone’s heads to stop spinning around. She never got upset. She never yelled. She just patiently listened with a slightly enigmatic smile until the crisis was over.
Maybe it was her natural personality or her years of experience growing up in a loud, excitable Irish-Catholic family. Or it may have been that she had 90% overall hearing loss and couldn’t hear a word we were saying.
I have this strong memory of staying with my grandparents while we were moving from on coast to another while my dad was in the Navy. I was trying to show her how good I was at doing a cartwheel and I messed up. The grass in the front law was still wet and my hand slipped and I fell on my face and hit my chin pretty hard and bit my tongue.
It hurt and I was embarrassed when my family laughed at me and I just wanted to hide in a dark cave until the world ended. My grandma picked me up, took me inside, got me a washcloth with an ice cube in it to suck on and wiped away my tears. She told me about the time when she was my age and was learning to roller skate and tripped over a rock and fell on her face and scratched her hands and knees.
She told me that the only time you really fail is when you don’t get back up again after falling down and that the easiest way to make yourself get up was to look up at where you want to be before trying to stand up.
Wise woman that she was, she knew I was still too embarrassed to go out and face the people who had laughed at me. So she calmly guided me up a ladder to the roof, handed me the garden hose, and turned on the water so I could have some sweet, sweet payback on my sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Never laugh at a six year-old in front of her grandmother, even if said grandmother happens to be your mother and grandmother too.