You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.
So it has been far too long since my last blog posting. The real world has taken an ugly grasp on me and I have not had a chance to sit down and write. Or maybe I just haven’t made it a priority as I need to start doing, maybe that should be a April Resolution (forget New Year’s Resolutions I think everyone should make a new resolution every month). Anyways I am getting off track. We all have role-models or people we grow up emulating and learning from and I am lucky to have a cadre of men and women that fall into this group. The past two weekends I was very fortunate to spend some time with two very important woman in my life. I am speaking of my two beautiful grandmothers. Each of them has had their trials and tribulations in life (like many who are nearing 90 years in age), however, it’s how they have handled these tribulations or held themselves that I and many others can learn from.
My father’s mother Merle (Beckman) York is the type of person that once you meet her you’re intrigued to learn more. Raised in Anaconda, MT with six siblings. She met my grandfather and they eventually settled in St. Ignatius MT to raise their family. My grandfather served as a high school science teacher and principle and my grandmother raised four children and also worked as the school receptionist. While not being formally diagnosed at the time, it was later projected that her symptoms that occurred with her last pregnancy could be attributed to multiple sclerosis. If you know someone who has been affected by this disease it is very different for each and every person. My grandmother has been in a wheel chair for ~31 years and fighting symptoms and flare-ups for much longer than this. My grandfather Herb (a saint himself) was always by her side. But Merle (or Nanny as she is known to her 8 grandchildren) has always been as independent as able and to this day is a champion of positivity. She has been my rock in “looking at the bright side” and I have very RARELY heard her complain, even with recently being diagnosed with primary liver cancer. While MS can affect cognition my grandmother has remained sharp as a whip and I love our conversations that occur often involving politics. Lately it has become increasingly difficult to converse with her unless you can read her lips as she speaks thus it was nice to see her two weekends ago, her sense of humor continues to make me laugh and as we reminisced on so many great memories it made us both cry too. She is one hell of a MT woman and I can’t wait to pass on her lessons she instilled in me to my children some day.
My mother’s mother Georgia (Wendt) Lodders is another strong woman who simply makes you want to hug her when she stands at a generous 5feet tall and giggles. She was raised on a ranch outside of Lewistown, MT with two siblings. Hard work was instilled on the ranch at a very young age, she passed this on to her children and thus my mother (along with my father) passed this on to my sister and I. My grandfather, trained to fight on skis in the 10th mountain division, suffered a brain injury after being shot in the head and left for dead in Dolomites during WWII. He remarkably recovered and went on to work on Truman’s Press Corp as well as a publisher for the Disabled American Veterans magazine while living in Washington DC. Eventually the West was calling them home and he and my grandmother settled in Denver, CO to raise their four children (with summer visits to the ranch in Lewistown). My grandfather suffered from mental health issues thus my grandmother often worked extra hard to support the family. She finished her career working for Colorado Ski Country known as “Ski Mom” throughout the area. She was even inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in Vail, Co with the likes of Warren Miller, Andy Mills etc. After retirement she settled in Anaconda, MT with her adorable sister (my great aunt) Jane. She has been through an an artificial valve replacement (in the 1970’s), emergent bilateral total knees replacements due to bleeds as well as bilateral hip replacements. But she still takes her walking sticks out and “hikes” with a smile on her face. Last weekend we spent the evening visiting with her as she stayed in their local hospital after having a rough return trip from wintering in AZ. Ever the host she insisted on sitting up the entire time we were there and refused to talk about her situation just stating “I am just getting old” followed by “you two look so good, are you going skiing tomorrow?”. Once again I was able to laugh and cry with another remarkable woman in my life.
Each of these ladies continues to affect those they meet and do so with such grace and humility. I can only hope that someday I will leave a lasting legacy for my grandchildren.