A Strong Woman

old photograps

How do you define a strong woman?

Is she someone like Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton, Sister Teresa, or Madame Curie?

Maybe you’re thinking more like… Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, or Diana Nyad.

Whatever our definition happens to be, if you look around, I’ll bet you know someone who’s a strong woman.

My grandmother, dad’s mother, was someone you wouldn’t soon forget after you met her. An imposing figure of a woman, she stood strong and tough, “Sturdy German stock,” she’d say. She wasn’t a hugger–nothing warm and fuzzy about her. But when I sat on her lap, cradled in that  feed sack apron, I knew I was loved.

Whenever I see the old movie, Grapes of Wrath—Henry Fonda’s mother, in the movie, reminds me of my grandmother. It’s not just in the way she dressed or wore her hair, but in the way she loved her family, and how she tried to keep it all together through tough times.

The mother of eight didn’t shy from hard work, there wasn’t a choice, really, when it came to caring for her children and the home she and my grandfather shared on the river bottom.

She could be a jovial soul, and quite a prankster. Nothing gave her more pleasure than playing a practical joke on someone. It was told that she once placed a dead, curled up, snake on my grandpa’s plow seat, and laughed till she cried at his reaction.

Grandma loved to cook. One of her favorite things to fix was fried catfish. Since she lived on the river bottom there was an abundance of the whiskered critters. She would trek off across the plowed earth and head to a quiet spot in the river bank, then cast her line attached to a cane pole.

There wasn’t a lot of pity handed out by this woman. She didn’t pamper any of her grandchildren, and probably thought we were all spoiled rotten. When we stayed with her we were expected to help out just like her children had. Whether it was milking their Guernsey cows or digging potatoes in the garden, there was no escaping the responsibility.

I think, now and then, of how she would marvel at our lives today. Conveniences we take for granted would astonish her. No doubt she would have something to say about the state of our world, and I’d probably have to agree with her on certain observations.

My grandmother was not famous. She never held a public office, wrote a novel or campaigned for anything. She did however; make a difference in my life.

She is part of me, who I’ve been, who I am, and  who I strive to be.

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