Monday Missive — A Grandmother’s Wisdom

This morning I woke early to a gloriously beautiful day. I walked outside and just breathed in the morning. The range of color reminded me how hard it is to replicate anything that nature produces naturally. Even a camera cannot capture the full range of color as the color correction features try to ‘normalize’ the image.

On mornings like these, reflection is a more gentle process. The myriad of thoughts normally bottled up flow easily to the surface. Today was one of those mornings.

Saturday, the preliminary results of the election settled the dust of the last week around my feet and I could finally breathe. The last two elections and the last four years of the current administration have caused me to think hard about my place and responsibility in this world. The thoughts can be overwhelming so please bear with me.

My network of family and friends are widely diverse. I am proud to have the people I care for comprise such a vivid spectrum. I will always stand up for them and fight for them. I have been rather quiet on these subjects in my blog because I did not want to spend much time being ‘political’ here. I think my walk through the fallen leaves made me realize the things that weigh heavy on me have nothing to do with politics, or at least they should not. My acknowledgement of the history of my life and the hopes for the future are what make up what I refer to as grandmother wisdom. More on that later. Let’s get politics out of the way first.

I made the decision to register a party affiliation just so I could vote in the primaries. I think I may go back to registering as an Independent. In my opinion the two majority parties in our country are tearing apart the very fibers of what we are supposed to stand for. Freedom, equality, separation of church and state to name just a few. I do not dislike either party, but I dislike many of the political ambitions and recklessness of many people associated with both. That’s all I will say here about politics.

Back to grandmother wisdom. I have always felt ill-equipped to fill the shoes of the generations of wise women in my family. They were the backbones, filled with wisdom and experience and had what seemed to me to be all the answers. Now, at a similar age, I understand more about the qualities they possessed than I ever have before. Experience, heartbreak, success, trials, tribulations, defeats and accomplishments all come together to establish a certain wisdom. You do not need to be a grandmother to embody this, you just need to be vulnerable and allow honesty to flow through you.

My friend, Kim has a phrase she uses which has always resonated with me. Allow your heart to break for the things that break the heart of God. Wow. Just read that again. I have seen so much these last few years that has broken me in ways I never talk about here. The tapestry of my family and friends requires me to speak up. For they have suffered and worried about things they should never have had to consider.

Religious persecution. I first saw it after 9/11 when a dear friend who is Muslim came to me in fear and asked me to commune with her. She was shocked when I agreed. She was living in fear. Her parent’s shop attacked and her network of friends disappearing in front of her. I had people suggest meeting with her might be a bad idea. That only reinforced my resolve to do so. I will always love and stand up for her.

Skin color is a perplexing weapon of racism. People of color have suffered greatly in this country of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. I have cried and prayed for not only my family and friends, but those tortured and shot on our streets. I cannot be silent. I must stand up and show up. My private pain has been the public pain of generations.

I look at my grandson and my granddaughter and think about their future. Theirs will always be subject to those who consider the color of their skin first. Their hearts so filled with love, hope, and anticipation. How will the world greet them? Our current climate of isolation in this pandemic has hurt my very core. I cannot hold them and reassure them as I have in the past. It breaks me.

My latest heartbreak was when my daughter told me she and her wife were signing papers and starting the legal process for her to adopt her own daughter. Adopt her own daughter. Can you even imagine what that feels like? It shattered her to ask the courts to be the step-parent of her own daughter. The fear of her marriage being nullified in the coming years angered her, but they are taking steps to protect their child. This is the color of freedom and equality in this country.

When the calls come in from my network of friends and family, I always answer. I may not have the answers for their problems, but I listen and share my experience. I will always be their safe place to fall. For my nieces and nephews who lost their own parents, I will always do my best to be there for them. Always.

I have often felt my own grandmother’s heart was weak, but reflecting, I think it must be strong, because it has broken so many times throughout my lifetime. Thankfully the heart is resilient and recovers, growing stronger and more determined. It is from this pain and experience that wisdom is born.

Yes, there is so much beauty and goodness in the world. I try hard to see it and acknowledge it every day. But life is about balance and I cannot simply wear rose colored glasses and pretend the world is in step with me for it is not. I am stepping up and standing up to be part of the healing we all so desperately need.

This grandmother’s wisdom — look deep and acknowledge it within you. It is time for the healers to come forward. There is much work to be done. It is my hope more people will stand up and become part of the solution that truly provides equality for each of us. And when that call comes in, just pick up and do your best to listen.

It truly takes a village.


18 thoughts on “Monday Missive — A Grandmother’s Wisdom”

  1. I always have to remind myself that years and years before my grandmother was the example of strength and wisdom in my life, she was a strong 15 or 16 year-old girl who left her home and journeyed to America. Here, she remained strong and overcame great obstacles. The women of strength in our personal history were always strong. Reading your posts, I get the picture that you have always been strong. I expect that you have a grandmother’s wisdom, Maggie, and some very lucky daughters and granddaughters are benefiting from it.

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    1. Dan, thank you for such kind and generous words. I often feel ill equipped to fill those shoes. Age is funny, we feel young at heart but a glance over the shoulder reminds of the roads we have traveled. We have traveled so far and yet there is so much farther to go.

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  2. Such a heartfelt post, and a wonderful one, Maggie. Grandmother wisdom is good wisdom. I’m not a grandmother, but I’m an elder (not sure whether I want to embrace “crone” quite yet, but our wisdom traditions of older women’s voices — well, I think that’s something that’s truly needed in these times. Healing, building trust and community, connecting with others, seeking to understand, and being kind. I could go on.

    But we have a voice to heard in these troubled times. I don’t know if you listen to OnBeing, but Krista Tippett’s interview from Sunday was so inspiring around hope, rebuilding trust, and making connection — so remarkable.

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    1. Lisa, thank you for your comment. These times are such that finding our voice and our wisdom can be a challenge.

      I have bookmarked the link you left and will listen to the interview today. I look forward to inspirational conversation. Thank you.


  3. what a beautiful post, Maggie. i had to read it twice. grandmothers’ wisdom – so precious, i take it with me all the time. thank you so much.

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    1. Wilma, I am thankful you found something in my post that spoke to you. I felt compelled to write what I have been wrestling with. Our grandmothers and that wisdom are powerful sources of guidance in these times.

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  4. Thank you for this brave and beautiful post. and the autumn leaves. I, too, feel like I can breathe again. I’m thinking about what you wrote about the two major parties in the US tearing us apart. From the perspective of someone who leans heavily toward one of those parties, I admire your willingness to consider being independent which. objectively, is a more balanced place to be. It seems like our overall political system is infected with a severe case of polarization, and people are getting tired of it. Now, if we can learn to find our common ground, we will be on our way to healing. Listening is a good tool for that. It seems listening is part of grandmother wisdom, too. Maybe grandmother wisdom is what our leaders need more of.

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    1. JoAnn I appreciate your comment so much. I think there is such potential for good in our country, but the polarization is breaking us. We have lost the ability to listen and to discuss and take a rational approach to government and therefore to each other. I, too, lean heavily to one side, and that in itself is problematic. It seems someone is always heavily on the offensive and the immediate reaction is a defensive posture. My grandmother might clean house with a damp dishtowel snapped on the fanny of our legislators. I struggle to see the way out, but I am forever optimistic.

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  5. Your post today is one of the most beautiful I’ve read. I particularly loved this “ Allow your heart to break for the things that break the heart of God.” That is soooo moving.

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  6. A powerful message from the heart in your post today. It also makes me realise that life is much easier in England. We have prejudice of course, and fierce political division. But it lacks many elements of the malaise affecting your country.
    Having to adopt your own daughter is scandalous, and unthinkable to right-minded people. I have never heard of such a thing.
    Your family are lucky to have you, Maggie, and I am sure they don’t need me to tell them that.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. Pete, thank you so much for your kind comment. It gives me hope. These days it seems like a struggle just to achieve a feeling of normalcy. I am hopeful that the tides will turn and that life for my children and grandchildren will be in a kinder world.


  7. I think one of the gifts we can bring as grandmothers is the long view. “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I was in Chicago after the murder of MLK and huddled on the floor as the Army moved in. I married interracially not long after it had become legal. I was denied jobs because I was “overeducated”(for a woman.) Birth control was illegal in Massachusetts when I was in college. My friends gave away their babies to strangers and only now are reconnecting. The law finally changed to accept that rape can happen in a marriage. We did just elect a biracial woman as Vice President. None of this is insignificant and we know all these things. I am definitely not a Pollyanna, but I did have a grandmother who told me how wonderful it was to vote for the first time when she was 30 years old.

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    1. Elizabeth, we have lived through and experienced so many things that changed us. We can share those experiences and I truly hope we do. I have faith that kindness and a sense of equality will prevail. This has been a trying time, but we have been through and survived so much!

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  8. Maggie, I don’t know what to say. It’s such a beautiful, heartfelt post. I can’t believe your daughter had to officially adopt her daughter – that seems insane. I can’t pretend to understand how your political system has become so polarised – much more than ours in the UK and much, much more than what we have in Scotland. I so agree about Grandmothers’ wisdom. I’m not a grandmother (sigh) but I’m of an age to be one 🙂 And, of course, I had my own two grandmothers who dispensed their wisdom.

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    1. We certainly do not need to be grandmothers to have that level of experience. I look at all you have seen and accomplished and you could write a handbook! Yes, the fear of dissolution of families here is palpable. It seems insane to even consider, but there are those that live this fear each and every day.

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