My Grandma was the wisest person in the world. She lived through trials and tribulations that would leave most people broken, and came out of them smiling. She knew more about building joy in her life than most of us will ever learn. She knew about love, strength, tenacity, tenderness and tolerance. Some of her wisdom was passed on her little sayings, but most of it came by her example.
No one in our family would ever dream of getting married until we had Grandma's approval on the fiance. Not that she would pitch a fit--just the opposite, in fact. We all valued her insight and wisdom, though and every one of us made the trip to have our intendeds meet Grandma. I don't believe Grandma ever said much out loud, but her eyes and her smile told us. If Grandma liked you, you were alright.
One of her sayings was that marriage is like two stones rubbing together. Gradually, you wear eachother smooth. The little bumps that once caused friction would, in time, fade away. She also said that marriage is not a 50-50 deal. Her math worked this way: each spouse was to give 100%, and each received 100% in return. What constituted 100% would be more at some times and less at others. Each person's needs would wax and wane, too. She promised that if we each gave 100%, it would work out even in the end.
My Grandmother stayed very present in her life, through difficult times and calm seas alike. She was always learning, always interested and curious about the world around her. I believe that is one reason that she stayed sharp until the end. Even when she was confined to her chair or her bed, she somehow never became a couch potato. Her body didn't work very well, but her mind was as agile as could be.
I think that her ability to stay present in her life, living fully invested in every day, was a key to all good things. I am sure that is part of why her marriage was such a success. I think it is how she overcame the tragedies in her life, and how she stayed so amazingly "with it". She was never bitter and never dwelled on the past. She was more interested in the moment.
She was not what you might call a typical old granny. At 6 feet tall, she was no dainty lady. As a younger woman she had been strong, capable, a little stubborn with an amazingly undaunted will. She worked hard, loved deeply, laughed a lot and enjoyed everything.
Her ability to weather the storm, keep a positive attitude, and live according to her own lights is an inspiration to me every day. She's been gone for many years now. Whenever I feel like my patience is running low, or like my life is too complicated, I think of Grandma. I visit her in my thoughts and in my heart often. In some inexplicable way, she is still teaching me.