I’m sure it will come as no surprise to my family, friends, and those of you who follow me on social media that I’ve been thinking about my grandmother a lot over the past month. My grandmother was, to say the least, extraordinary. She didn’t win any awards. Gram wasn’t known outside of her hometown. She didn’t do great things or travel to faraway places or lead protests or discover a new star. She didn’t do anything special at all unless you count every single little thing she did with extraordinary love, and she taught me so much.
There are many lessons I learned from my grandmother, but there is little that she taught me through words or preaching or admonishments. Almost everything I learned from her, I leaned by watching her, and I try my best to emulate all that she taught me.
These are the things I will always cherish and strive to uphold.
Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my grandmother. Part of it is because I’m writing a book in which the heroine’s grandmother is, to put it simply, my grandmother. The grandmother’s home is my grandmother’s home, and the hometown is her hometown. As I write, I’m happily revisiting the place I loved most in the world, when growing up, and the couple I most admired. On top of that, the husband of my grandmother’s dearest friend passed away last week, and I was back in that small hometown, seeing people I hadn’t seen in years, saying goodbye to another part of my past and to another piece of my grandmother.
We all have a grandmother, or a grandmother-like person, who we grew up loving and admiring. In my current book, I state that Courtney’s grandmother “was everything Courtney ever wanted to be.” I always felt the same about my grandmother. She didn’t have more than a high school education, but she was among the smartest women I’ve ever known. She had the kind of smarts and common sense that most highly educated people never have. She was fearless, willing to try anything, go anywhere, experience new things, and meet new people. No task was above or beneath her, from selling soft crabs throughout the summer to gather a small bit of Christmas money to getting on her hands a knees to mop the kitchen floor at the parish church and rectory. She worked hard and never shirked responsibility. If every young person today had half the work ethic of my grandmother or my grandfather, we’d be living in a much better world. And the same goes for her strong faith. Gram never missed Mass, said daily prayers before starting her day’s work, and offered a Rosary for every person in need.
Looking back at the simple life that my grandparents lived, I can’t help but wonder where we’ve gone wrong. Theirs was a life of devotion to their families, their Church, and each other. They took no more than needed and gave more than they had. They bought what was necessary and saved their money for a rainy day (except when it came to shoes–Gram considered new shoes a necessity at all times for all occasions). They paid for everything in cash. They knew that hard work paid off and that God and family were the center of everything.
I’m not sure what my grandparents would have thought of the world we live in today. Granddad passed away when I was just eighteen, before the age of computers and electric cars and people believing they are entitled to more, more, more. Granddad would have loved Facetime, without a doubt. To be able to speak, face-to-face, with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have been the highlight of each day. But he would have hated the lack of true social interaction and the attitude that men and women can’t admire each other without taking offense (he was a hugger who called every female sweetheart while always showing the utmost respect to everyone). He would have loved electric cars but would have hated the solar panels that have taken over so many farmers’ fields.
There are still days when I wish I could pick up the phone and call my grandmother. I miss the weeks that the girls and I spent at her house in the summer. I’d give anything to go crabbing or fishing with my grandfather just one more time. Today, so many young couples are getting married later in life and are then waiting to have children.Even with the life-expectancy now being at 78.7 years old, there are many people who grow up never knowing their grandparents or great-grandparents. Despite the cries from the over-population zealots, we are actually in a population crisis due to policies like those in China and Japan and young professionals in the US and Europe not having families. I fear that my parents will never see my children become parents. My husband has already let it be known that he’s ready and eager to be a grandfather before he’s too old to enjoy it.
I pray that everyone can have a grandmother who is everything she wants to be, a grandfather who can teach him or her how to fish, and a relationship with both of them that they will cherish all the days of their lives. We’re losing our focus on the family. We’re losing our respect and love for the elderly, who so many see as a burden on their jet-setting lives. We’re losing the ever-important grandparent-grandchild connection that helped so many of us become the persons we are today. I thank God every day that Ken and I had children when we were young, that my children have grandparents (and had great-grandparents) to bond with and look up to. I pray that future generations remember how important it is to maintain that connection. When you look at the big picture, Grandparents are only in our lives for a short time. Cherish the ones you have. Build the relationships between your parents and your children. Take the time to see each other in person, spend time together, and show love and respect for each other beginning today. Someday, perhaps soon, it will be too late to start.
“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their parents.”
The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.
Memories are funny things, elusive little pieces of time that slip in and out of the mind on the tails of the spirits of the past. This time of year, those spirits conjure up so many memories for me. Mother’s Day always reminds me of my grandmother who I loved so much and miss every day. The smell of lilacs in the spring brings to mind carefree days reading books in the backyard of my childhood home. The anticipation of summer reminds me of all of the time I spent in a little town in St. Mary’s County called Bushwood. How I loved spending long, lazy days at my grandparents’ home in the country. I crabbed with my grandfather in the Wicomico River in the mornings and walked the tobacco fields next to the house in the afternoons. I can still close my eyes and remember the sweet scent of the leaves that were so large I could sit under them and shield myself from the sun’s scorching rays.
One of my fondest memories was helping Gram with the wash. It amazed me that every morning, before most of the world was awake, the first load of the day was already in the washer. When I wasn’t crabbing with Granddad, I enjoyed wonderful country breakfasts of fresh eggs, scrapple, and sliced peaches in cream while Gram sat with me and said her morning prayers. Then we would load the laundry into the baskets and take it into the backyard to hang on the clothesline.
Long before anyone spoke about global warming or carbon footprints, Gram knew that a dryer was only to be used when necessary. Hanging out clothes and linens was much more economical. It kept the house cooler, used less energy, lowered the utility bills, and best of all in my mind, just made everything smell better, sweeter, and cleaner.
I’ll never forget the feeling of slipping beneath those cool, crisp, line-dried sheets at night. I would fall asleep to the sounds of the crickets and tree frogs outside of my window and the feel and smell of the country air on my skin. Even now, there is nothing quite like enveloping myself in a freshly made bed with sheets that smell of country air and sunshine. If you don’t believe that sunshine has a smell, then you’ve never had the pleasure of laying your head on a pillowcase that has been warmed by sunlight and dried by the gentle breeze of God’s waving hand.
I now live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in a little town that is similar in many ways to the beloved Bushwood of my youth. We crab in Grace Creek, take walks through our woods, and enjoy the quiet, country life. And every sunny day from April through October, you can find our family’s laundry on the clotheslines that are strung up in our backyard. On breezy days, when the wind gently blows the clothes against my cheek as I hang them, I smile and look up, knowing that Gram has just whispered “hello.” Always on my mind and in my prayers, I whisper back, “I love you and miss you.” And I think of her that night when I lay my head on my crisp, clean sheets.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.