It is Grandma Rose’s 85th birthday! And so I thought I’d take a moment to thank my mom for some of the big lessons I have learned from her.
Those of us who are parents know that our kids don’t learn near as much from what we say as what we do, how we act. As a “grown kid,” I’m no exception. I am quite sure Grandma Rose doesn’t even realize she has taught me some of the bigger things on the list.
And so here are my top 3 things I’ve learned from my mom, Grandma Rose. (You might as well go get some tissues now, Mom.)
Old Dogs and New Tricks
Every day I learn from my mom that learning happens for as long as we let it. And I’m not just talking about Grandma learning about Twitter!
When Rose graduated high school in 1939, she did what was expected – she became a secretary to help support the family, then married my dad, then had kids. But all that time, she longed to go to college.
It wasn’t until age 70 that Rose finally enrolled in our local community college, graduating at age 72.
From there, Rose has kept on learning, attending classes almost every day at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Arizona.
But the bigger thing is that she started teaching. First she tutored ESL students in conversational English. Then she taught blind people to knit. From there, she started not only attending classes at OLLI – she began teaching there as well.
And for the past few years, Rose has been helping to teach diagnosis and bedside manner to medical students, through a role-playing program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
My mom didn’t do any of this when we were growing up. She was a wife and mother. She helped my dad out in his store, and was home by the time my brother and I got home from school.
My mom’s burning desire to learn and most importantly to teach all began after the age of 70. It’s why she won the 2006 Ageless Heroes Award for her “love of learning” (note in the photo – she had just won and was 100% deer-in-the-headlights shocked!)
Every time I wonder where my “just dive in and do it” comes from, I realize it is one of the lessons my mom has taught me – it is never too late to learn something entirely new (and yes, that includes Twitter!) or to start entirely over.
When my mom and dad were first married, they had a daughter, Susie. One June evening after dinner, my mom took Susie outside to play in the warm evening air. Susie ran into the street and…
After Susie’s death, my parents kept trying to have another baby. It wasn’t until they moved out of the Bronx and were preoccupied with fixing up their new house in the suburbs that I came along, followed by my brother.
It took until I was a mom myself to understand the full impact of something that had been just one of those unspoken things in our house.
First, I couldn’t imagine having the courage to keep living, to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Then I couldn’t imagine having the courage to have another baby – to take a chance on giving your heart to another child. And I couldn’t imagine having the courage to ever ever ever let us cross the street alone (still not easy for her, and I’m 51 years old!).
Every time I matter-of-factly and enthusiastically encourage my own daughter as she leaps into some new abyss (she’s 23, after all – the age for ongoing abyss-leaping!), I thank my mom for teaching me courage.
Rules? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rules!
Our house never operated from the same rule book as most other middle-American homes. We could discuss anything. We never presumed that any group of people was better than anyone else (except, of course, the Rubinsteins – my dad’s mom’s side of the family, who know as simple fact that they are the smartest people who have ever been alive – seriously). We laughed all the time. Fowl language was not shocking – ok, it was the norm (I didn’t know my mom’s mother well, but my dad’s mom swore like a 4’8″ Russian Jewish sailor to the day she died at age 93.)
I had no idea I had learned all that – that it wasn’t just how things are. But it was indeed “learned.” I learned to be open-minded, and to find life’s funny bone. I learned that family should be about joy. I learned that if there is a God, he or she also enjoys a good laugh (don’t even ask about the potholders at holiday time!).
So Happy Birthday, Grandma Rose. I look forward to our learning together and from each other. And I look forward to lots more laughing.
Please send your wishes to Grandma Rose in the comments below!
And as you look at the strong men and women who made you the person you are, are there lessons you learned from them, that they probably don’t even know they taught you?