My grandmother (everyone in the family calls her Nani) turned 93 yesterday — NINETY-THREE! I know people live to be much older than this, but as my only living grandparent, I’m pretty darn proud of her for sticking around this long. This isn’ my typical blog post, but I wanted to honor her in a way that I could look back on in years to come.
Let me tell you a little something about my grandmother — she is strong, brave, kind, inspirational, and a spit-fire. She treats complete strangers like family, says exactly what is on her mind, and never says no to dessert. She’s survived 93 years full of happiness, love, triumphs, family, and friends, but she’s also endured heartbreak, failure, and loss. She’s probably the strongest person I know, so I want to share a few lessons I’ve learned from her along the way. Let’s get started.
1. True love is everlasting.
My grandfather (her husband) passed away a little over 10 years ago from cancer, and whenever you mention dating to her she insists she would never because “what would her boyfriend (my grandfather) say?” She has a picture of him in her living room, and she always says that if she were to bring a man over he would just be looking at them, and that wouldn’t feel right. Since I was about 12 when he passed away, I don’t remember their relationship particularly well, but the love she continues to have for him today, even 10 years later, reminds me that true love is out there and it doesn’t ever leave you.
2. A shot of sherry can solve most of life’s problems.
Do you have a sore throat? Take a shot of sherry. Can’t sleep at night? Take a shot of sherry? Family is bothering you at the holidays? Take a shot of sherry. Nani doesn’t drink much (mostly because she’s 93 and on nine different kinds of medication), but when she does, it’s usually a glass of wine or a shot of sherry.
3. Share your stories, and take time to listen to other people’s stories.
I consider myself lucky because I’ve got a grandma that loves spending time with me and telling me about her life — and she still can. She’s still got an amazing memory, and an ability to tell stories in the funniest manner. One of my favorite things to do when I’m home is spend an hour flipping through old photo albums with her listening to what she has to say about old boyfriends (all of whom wanted to marry her), family gatherings, and her time living in Jamaica. I can’t hear those stories from anyone else, so I’m glad she’s around to share them with me.
4. Be nice to everyone.
It’s the easiest thing in the world, but sometimes we can be so bad at being nice. Nani is friends with everyone she meets, and I think that’s a truly wonderful thing.
5. There’s nothing like grandma’s house.
When I was growing up, my grandparents lived on the other coast of Florida from my family. We would go and visit them every once in awhile (I don’t remember how often, I was a kid!), and every time we would arrive after the two-hour trek across the state, mini-muffins and mini-Dove chocolate bars would be waiting for us. It’s funny how that (and the memory of jumping from bed to bed in the guest room) stick out in my mind after all these years, but every time I see those food items I’m immediately transported back to times at Nani’s house.
6. The little things are what matter most.
I’ve always been a big believer in the importance of the little things, but Nani has really cemented that notion for me. The moment this really stuck out to me was when I took her to the grocery store after Hurricane Irma hit Florida last year. It was maybe a 30 minute trip, but she probably thanked me at least 15 times for taking her. It was just a blip in my day, but it meant the world to her. The same can be said for having afternoon tea together or taking her to the bookstore. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture or an all-consuming event to mean something special to someone.
7. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind.
It took her probably 90 years to get to this point, but Nani has finally learned to speak her mind. She can get away with a lot of things because of her age, but that doesn’t mean I’m inspired any less by her spit-fire attitude.
8. Treat others better than they treat you.
I’ve mentioned it before, but it deserves mentioning twice that my grandmother is an angel. She would do anything for the ones she loves. She has truly shown me that you should treat everyone with kindness and love, even if they don’t always deserve it. Sometimes that just means they need it more.
9. You can survive anything that comes your way.
I’ve been through a lot in my short 23 years on this Earth, so I can only imagine what Nani has been through. She’s lived through economic depressions, she’s survived deadly hurricanes, she’s buried a husband and countless friends and family members. She’s a tough cookie. And she’s still sweet and kind and wonderful. I think what I’m most impressed by is that she never let life make her bitter. She took what came to her for what it was and simply dealt with it the best she could, which is the only thing we can do, honestly.
10. The impact you have on people’s lives is far more important than anything else.
Just remember this. Every day. Live your life impacting the lives of those around you, and you’re going to feel better at the end of every day.
Thank you, Nani. From the bottom of my heart, for everything you have taught me throughout my life and everything you will continue to teach me. I hope you had a fantastic birthday, I hope I can share this with you when I come home since you really don’t know how the Internet works, and I hope I get to celebrate some more years with you in my life.