Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What I Learned From My Grandparents

My Grandmother, Thelma Sapp Combee, standing in the garden.
Granny in the pole beans

The passing of my grandmother this past week set me to thinking. She is the third grandparent in my life to pass on in the last decade, yet I don't feel her loss any less than the other two. Instead, I find myself yet again reevaluating myself and my memories.

Individually each grandparent has placed in me a piece of themselves. After all, I am a composite of my experiences and the people I have met. But from these who loved me, whom I spent time with, I have the greatest impression. From them I found humor, simplicity, spirituality, and acceptance.


My dad's mother showed me that joy is eternal and infectious. She was the happiest person I've ever known. Even in her final years, she'd clap and smile and never ceased saying how much she loved you. My personal goal is to be exactly the same.

She taught me that knowing your family history is fascinating and worthwhile. Granny remembered everyone, knew who they were related to, and could trace their ancestors back several generations. No branch of the family escaped her notice. With photos and newspaper articles, she traced the paths of her history, never forgetting. She accepted the future, even in her last days wanting to learn to use a computer, without ever forgetting the past.

Granny's faith in God was simple and heartfelt. Whereas my life sometimes seems complicated and unsure, I can look at her and know that God is in control. She was forever faithful and dedicated to her church. Watching the changes in it over the years, and creating a few of her own.


My grandfather, Pop-Pop, set an example of hard work and an honest living. Always out in his fields, day and night, he'd plant, and hoe, and weed because he knew that was how to get results. His didn't have much financially, but what he did have he put to good use.

Pop-Pop taught me that the church and the Bible must be the core of everything you do. He walked in great integrity and had a stalwart faith that all of his grandchildren admire and aspire to.

From him I developed a love for growing things, for he could grow anything and grow it well. Even in his latter years, when he couldn't get around very well, he still planted and watered and grew. Through this, He demonstrated patience and persistence. He showed that working the soil would reap bountiful results. To this day, when I plant something I ask myself what he would do.


My grandmother, Juanita, taught me that granddaughters are a treasure. With a smile and a laugh, she'd pull out her brown box of toys. I think I miss her laugh the most. On sunny afternoons, we'd walk down to the "duck lake" and scatter breadcrumbs. From her I have my love for birds and flowers. Sometimes she'd create picture books, tied together with construction paper and string. She made me feel special and loved.

Granny taught me how to cook. I learned the value of leftovers. More than once I told her, "Granny, I'll eat your leftovers any day." Somehow, her food was always good warmed up. She taught me the proper method for making cheese sauce without lumps. Because of her I know if it's a vegetable, you peel it; you never to stir cornbread dressing; and making pear relish is rewarding.

Most of all, she taught me the value of memories. Granny remembered everything. She could tell you when and where she purchased every Christmas tree ornament. She attended all her high school class reunions and kept in contact with her friends. For years she wrote letters, enclosing photos and news articles pertinent to each person. She even wrote to her grandchildren, no matter how close or far away they were. If you sent her a card, she saved it, and if it was your birthday, an anniversary, or a holiday, she sent you one in return. A gift from her placed in a plain white box with a simple red bow on it was just as special as if it had been wrapped in the finest paper.


My grandfather, Bud, taught me the beauty of the hymns. Ever a fount of song lyrics, there isn't many hymns he doesn't know and can't sing.

He showed me thrift and generosity. Granny always said he'd give you the shirt off his back if you asked it. You never left his house without a jar of pickles or a bag of cookies, and borrowed money couldn't be repaid. Granddaddy showed me that the Sunday ads were there to help find the best bargains. He always knew when things were on sale.

With Granddaddy ice cream was elevated from a special treat to the end of every meal (Everyone knew you could get a bowl at his table) and He made Coke an everyday drink. From him I learned that orange juice goes in iced tea and there's nothing so grand as cleaning your plate.


As I sat and listened during my grandmother's funeral this week to all the words spoken about her, I was struck most of all by the love so many expressed. Every grandchild and great grandchild, every friend, only had good things to say. I came away knowing that none of these will ever forget who she was. she was for so many, the best of memories and a true example of love.

That is really what its all about, I think. The greatest lesson I have learned from my grandparents is the power of love. They loved me, and I in turn loved them. They gave me a love for God, for family, and for friends. I like to think, one day when I'm old and gray, my daughter and my grandchildren will look back at my life and remember me the same. For what I have become and what I have yet to be is a direct result of what my grandparents have given me. I love them all, and I am so grateful.

Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

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