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My dad’s mother, Helena Gardiner, would have been 100 years old today.  Her daughter, my beloved Aunt Carol, sent me the following few paragraphs in memory of her mom.

July 1, 1910, Mama’s birthday — 100 years ago.  Think of all that’s happened in the last 100 years!  An amazing time to live.
And has anything really BIG happened since October 1997 when she left us?  Well, 911, the obvious one, she would have been glued to the TV news. The current wars, but she lived through several of them, so nothing new there.  IPODS, IPHONES, IPADS, maybe.  Facebook?  Oil spills, major hurricanes and snow storms, and another financial crisis, like the one that happened in 1929, one year after she was married.  She always remembered that as the time she learned to fix ground beef 100 different ways.  But I think if she walked in the door today there wouldn’t be a whole lot of news for her to catch-up on, other than why her daughter looks so old, and when did we get a new car.  Of course, Karen’s tribulation, but she no doubt caught some of the prayers and was doing a bit of spiritual hand-holding in Santa Fe this past year.
I miss her, but so many of her physical idiosyncrasies are my own now.  I hear her when I laugh, sneeze or cough, and she still taps her onyx ring on the steering wheel whenever I drive, but when I look it’s my own hand and my wedding rings that are clicking.  I see her in my brother’s blue eyes, and remember her excited “Oh, Son, Son!” when he surprised her with a visit a few months before she died.  She left us with so many memories.  A single mom who would have smacked us if we had referred to her as such, but nonetheless, a woman abandoned to be the sole, if not financial than certainly emotional, support of her three youngsters.  A devoted mother who would never talk about dying, even in her advanced years, because she could not imagine leaving her children.  A survivor, a successful independent woman before society celebrated I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar!
Her 100th birthday — a good day to remember Mama.  — Carol

Grandmother

I knew this amazing lady as simply “Grandmother” (she would have it no other way – no shortened endearments like “Grandma” or “Granny” were acceptable!) and, thinking more about that today, I realize her properness had a big influence on me. Her love of nice things – china, silverware, glassware – obviously rubbed off on me! As a girl, I was always impressed that she dressed so impeccably no matter what the occasion was. And so I learned to love getting dressed up and going to her house for Easter and rolling eggs down the hill in her back yard. I recall she always made my dad remove his hat before sitting at the table – and to this day it bugs me a bit when a man wears a baseball hat during dinner.

She loved azaleas and roses, and by taking me with her to various public gardens over the years, she helped instill a lifelong love of gardening in her granddaughter.

She would have been 100 years old today, but would not have wanted you to know that.

Happy Birthday to my dear Grandmother – Helena Gardiner.

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Every day there are more things to be grateful for, and more people who I want to give an extra special thank you to.  Today, though, I really want to express my love and gratitude to my beautiful Aunt Carol.

Dear Carol:

            I don’t know how you do it.  You’ve got an amazing, uncanny knack for knowing exactly when I could use a few well chosen words of encouragement, or an email hug, or a great book I wouldn’t have thought to pick up.  Somehow you manage to consistently “read between the lines” to know just what it is I need…I sure do love you for that and – of course – so much more! 

            When you sent A Pearl in the Storm a while ago, I gotta admit my initial response was, “I don’t think I can read an entire book about some nutty woman rowing across the Atlantic…” But, in part because of your gentle nudges with each Pearl reference in your messages, I finally decided to open the cover and take a look. Now that I’ve almost finished it in two sittings (well, if you don’t count the dozens of bathroom breaks…), I can give you the heartfelt thank you the gift deserves.  Her story is so inspiring, and truly a testament to how much strength we each have within us if only we can get out of our own way long enough to discover it.  I’m working on that part a little bit more each day.

A Pearl In The Storm

A Pearl In The Storm

I got to the chapter where she describes being violently tossed about in her tiny cabin during the hurricane. Just then I was beginning to have a particularly tough time with my own ailments.  But I thought, jeez, if she could survive being beaten up in a rowboat hour-after-hour, I could surely manage another round of what feels like “passing needles.” Her ability to find humor in her dire situation actually helped bring a smile to my face: I envisioned myself being found lying half-naked passed out on the bathroom floor but had to laugh when I realized (a bit like Tori) what really concerned me was that the floor was dirty… 

            And then, in yesterday’s mail, the first issue of Unity Magazine arrived from you. I was so pleased to see the author of Eat, Pray, Love smiling on the cover (another woman whose difficult journey helped her find her heart!).  The article about her made me want to pull out the book again for another good read. 

            But, even more than providing the ideal reading material when I most need it, I so appreciate each of your wonderful messages (emails, blog comments, Facebook posts…).  Most of the time you make me grin, but then just when I’m willfully holding back tears you come up with something that causes them to pour out. 

            You’ve been there for me through every damn hurdle since I was born. I wouldn’t be who I am without you. “Thank you” does not seem adequate.  So, how about “thank you” and I LOVE YOU! 

-Wren

P.S. – You only got off without me posting a photo of you because I didn’t have the patience to get the scanner to work…next time though…

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