A Grandmother's Legacy: Memories Never Wait

I’d rather eat cornflakes and travel than eat steak and not travel.
— Marge Jergenson (woman who hosted me while I was in seminary)
Chicago: April 2019

Chicago: April 2019

I’m 34 today. Typically, I write some sort of nostalgic birthday post, but this post is not about me. It’s about my nearly 87 year old grandmother who just joined me in Chicago to visit my sister. If you’ve spent any time with me, you’ve heard at least one story including a feisty Italian woman who has no filter. She says what she thinks, loves her grandchildren with intensity, is loyal to her family, and generous to her friends. She makes a mean gnocchi (pronounced: en-yocky), complete with a tasty red sauce and Italian salad. She also makes legendary Mickey Mouse pancakes at just about any time of night (but only if you ask nicely and shower her with compliments about how nobody in the world makes pancakes quite like she does). 

Nana is a constant adventurer. Just a couple years ago, she went with me and my cousin to Alaska. While she has trouble walking long distances and complains whenever we come to a set of stairs, she’s still up for a road trip, or a plane trip, to make memories with her grandkids. 

Alaska: May 2017

Alaska: May 2017

Speaking of grandkids, she has 12 (five of whom have spouses, so I guess that makes 17) and currently 8 great-grandkids. These all came from 2 daughters, who she raised as a single mom, in the south, in a couples’ world where most women were stay-at-home moms. She also has a Master’s degree—not at all common for the world in which she lived. 

I’d say, with a grandmother like Nana, all the women in our family were destined to be powerful, don’t-take-no-for-an-answer sort of women. All the men were destined to respect and adore strong women with strong (sometimes overpowering) personalities. When Nana walks into a room, you know she’s there and she doesn’t apologize. In fact, she might challenge you to a game of cards and take all your money. 

I told Nana on this trip to Chicago that one of my biggest prayers is for her to be at my wedding someday. Her mind is extremely sharp (even if her body is starting to show her age), but when someone is 87, you never know. 

That’s what’s great about Nana: she’s comfortable talking about death and changes her mind regularly about if she wants to live till 100 or not. We make jokes about her spending our inheritance on all the trips she takes—but only because we’d all much rather have more time with her than any inheritance, ever. 


I have a great speech planned for Nanna’s funeral. The last time we talked about her funeral, she said, “I’m going to be so mad to not be there. You’re going to have so much fun!” 

Only Nana would have FOMO for her own funeral. 

I’m 34 today. Here’s hoping I can be like Nana when I’m 87.