Last week, I described the first woman who shaped me – my mother. The second woman to shape me was my grandmother – my mother’s mother.
We were taught to refer to her as Grandma Adie when speaking about her, and Grandma when speaking with her. Never to be abbreviated (e.g., Gran or Granny) or adulterated (e.g., GranGran).
Grandma Adie emigrated from Scotland to Canada, a country where the children made fun of her accent and suggested that she spoke “broken” English. She held her head high and carried on getting top grades in school.
Her father did not believe that girls needed higher education (e.g., beyond high school), so from a young age Grandma Adie worked in a bank where she made it her business to understand and invest her money.
Once married, she stayed home with the children and cared for a husband who had been gassed in the First World War. Widowed at the age of forty-three, she went to work as a stenographer at the Police Department and raised her two teenage girls as a single parent.
We were taught to address our thank you notes to her as “Mrs. John Adie.” It was improper to address her as Mrs. Janet Adie – she only became Mrs. because she was married to John; we didn’t yet have the honorific Ms. And I am sure she would not have used it anyway.
Retired at sixty-five, she supported herself to the age of ninety-five and still left a sizable inheritance.
Grandma Adie was hard of hearing, so she taught me to stand up straight and speak distinctly – two practices that have stood me in good stead throughout my life, whether speaking with someone who is hearing challenged, speaking with a group or speaking from a stage.
She came to dinner every Sunday bringing with her a big box of Tetley Tea
and a package of chocolate cookies. The lesson: guests never show up empty-handed.
Grandma Adie always took charge of washing the Sunday dinner dishes and we children competed for the privilege of drying – that gave us an opportunity to tell her all the exciting things that we were up to.
Grandma was always full of praise. The lesson: Listening and providing positive feedback encourages people to want to work with you.
Every week she gave each child a nickel and told us not to spend it all in one place. This is how I learned to be thrifty … to “squeeze a nickel and make a dime pop out!”
Grandma encouraged me to go to university; to get an education that would equip me to support myself. She used her own life experience to demonstrate the necessity of being self-sufficient.
In order for me to go to university and support myself, I worked a regular part-time job and got student loans every year. Periodically, Grandma Adie would send me $100 which she designated as her contribution to my education.
Grandma Adie was enormously proud when I graduated, the first WOMAN in my family to EVER achieve a university degree. And she felt certain that with an education, I would never go hungry!
And so far - she's been right!