This is my grandmother, in 1918. On the back of the photo it says her swan dive was 99.9% perfect. She was 16 at the time. She would go on to marry. Live in NYC for a while. Move back to her home town. Have twin boys, then another boy, then after many years, well into her 40’s, (44,45?)a girl. My mother. My grandmother was my age when she started over with a new baby. When that baby was 6, she would leave her drunk carousing husband once and for all, and venture out on her own as a single mother, before single motherhood was a norm.

She had an eighth grade education but she was smart. She worked as a secretary at a lumber yard for over forty years, hardly ever getting a raise, but she was frugal and managed to get me and my sibs one good pair of school shoes every year and a couple of articles of clothing.

When we would arrive at her apartment, unexpected, on school nights or weekends, at 10PM,  (bad nights when my mom didn’t want to leave us home with my father when she went off to work graveyard shift), my grandmother would fling the door open and exclaim,

“Oh Joy!”

She never made us feel like a burden.

She ate dandelions and pickled things, and loved to feed and watch birds. She was not a fan of cats, but learned to love our family dog, (secretly).

Recently, my sister and I discovered we both think of her whenever a red cardinal makes an appearance.

Soon after she retired at age 87, she moved in with my mother to become caretaker of my two preschool aged brothers, who had come along well after the rest of us, unexpectedly, a lot like my mother had. My father had left us, and did not pay support. My mom needed her to move in, to survive. Gramma cooked and did her best to clean, and did her best to raise the boys, though often she used shame as a method of keeping them in line. She meant well, and didn’t know better.

I was one of the closest people on earth to my grandmother. I was the last family member to see her before she died of congestive heart failure, staying with her in the ER until they got her settled into a room.

As we get ready to move south, and my whole world is up in the air, everything I think I believe has gone flying out the window, and I’ve been filled with panic at times. My faith in all things working out seems to have left me and I kind of see it off glinting in the distance somewhere, but I can’t quite reach it. Then my ego has a field day with this, a regular hootenanny, flagellating me, for being such a spiritual hypocrite. It isn’t enough to be afraid, but I then beat myself up over it too.

I know I don’t have life figured out. I often think I do, but my grandmother’s life serves as a reminder that I don’t.  At my age, she was starting her life anew, just beginning with my mother. So much was ahead of her.

Now…tongue firmly in cheek here, ……at my age, she wouldn’t even meet me, one of the closest people on earth to her, for another 20 years! (Yes, my grandmother’s life was all about me). Can you imagine? I might not even meet one of the people who will be there with me holding my hand, the day I die, for another 20 years?

But much to my amazement, my grandmother had a whole life before me too. There are photos to prove it. My mother gave me a whole envelope, years after my grandmother died.

Look at the photo above. She dove! What did it feel like to feel so free in your body Gramma? You never talked about it!  99.9% perfect.

And look at this one. Who is this Mabel Rodman, obviously a BFF…that you never once mentioned?And when by God, did you ever wear high heels or pose flirtily hanging off a train? Gramma? I knew ye only in orthopedic shoes. And who took the pictures?



There are so many chapters in the story of a life.













We are about to start a new one. It feels so frightening. So much appears to be on the line. We’re losing so much money on the house, it’s like completely starting over financially.

But…. we’re, “going in the light that’s given us.” Truly, we are.


“Things have a way of working out.”


God loves us.”

Beyond my fear, I know these things to be true.

I know it.

My gramma gave me that.


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15 Responses to Diving

  1. Meg says:

    What an amazing woman and what an amazing thing she shared with you: to greet what some might see as an imposition with an exclamation of, “Oh, Joy!”

    Our lives have so many chapters. I am happy to have shared some with you and I am excited to hear about your next one!

  2. kario says:

    Oh, Michelle. Where to begin? This is such a lovely, lovely post and, throughout it all, I can’t help but get this feeling that while there were many chapters in your grandmother’s life, each of them distinct and different, there were a few threads that ran through them all. One was most certainly courage, I suspect another was love, and it seems to me that she stood rooted firmly in each chapter when she was there, much like you. I can’t know what it’s like to embark on yet another new chapter for yourself and your family, and I can only imagine the fear, but I hope you know that you stand as a testament to courage and the power of love and blooming where you find yourself for the rest of us. Sending you love and light and a little bit of faith.

  3. Carrie Link says:

    This was worth the wait. YAMH. Gramma is my human, too. Oh, joy!

  4. This was stunning. What a wild woman! I just want you to know that I can imagine how scary it must be to make such a radical change in your life, but from the little bit I know of you, I can also imagine that you will sort it all out and adapt and, hopefully, write about it all. We’re out here, supporting you in spirit —

  5. Brenda Riesen says:

    Our Grandmother shaped my belief system. I adored the Grace and Faith she projected out into the world. I treasure every Memory and have said many times that she guides me in my spiritual journey. I did not know that Gram started out into single motherhood in her late 40’s. She was inspirational! We were blessed beyond words!

  6. Brenda Riesen says:

    Wishing you love and Joy in your new home. Embrace the adventure, the lessons you and your family learn on the journey will be Awesome!

  7. *m* says:

    Such a beautiful post. And those pictures! The last one made me teary. There’s a sparkle in those eyes that reminded me of my own grandma (who also had a remarkable, many-chaptered life).

    Change is so scary — but good. Wishing you so much happiness as you begin this exciting next chapter in your personal and family story.

  8. jerri says:

    Dearest Michelle. Wait a week or so, then go back and read this post. The distance of time will let you see how your gorgeous your writing is.

    And…doubts do not diminish your faith. We all question what we believe, but only the strongest among us keep moving forward despite our fear.

    You are going in the light because you ARE the light.

  9. mom says:

    Thank you for sharing and capturing a part of Gramma that not many knew. She was strong, courageous, ahead of her time. And she was tough, she held her ground even if no one agreed with her. Above all the most important of all to her was her faith in God especially when she couldn’t see His devine hand in situations. “keep the faith and go in the light God gives you”. You are blessed with the ability to bring pen to paper. Another joyful teary read! Love you!!

  10. Julie A says:

    Hadn’t heard from you in a while so knew you were busy packing and wrapping things up–such a stressful time isn’t it? even once you get there you have to give yourself some slack….allow yourself time to be the human your spirit is living in. Sometimes when I catch myself if that crazy “I’m anxious/worried/sick and guess what I created it all didn’t I? I’ve made my reality and now I deserve to suffer” guilt cycle I tell myself “you know what? I should be so proud of my Ego!!! it works great!! it’s wonderful–it does it’s job SO perfectly 🙂
    It’s all about knowing that This too shall pass…
    Hang in there
    Julie A.

  11. Dee Ready says:

    Dear Michelle, because I believe in the Holy Oneness of All Creation of which you and I and your grandmother are a part, I believe that you are One with her right now and that she is cheering you on. She will walk with you every step of the way into this new life.

    Change almost always is scary. It’s risky. But to grow is to change. And as John Henry Cardinal Newman said back in the 19th century. “To change off is to be perfect.” By that word used then he didn’t mean the idea of all being absolutely right but of the person being content within the essence of time. My wish for you is that you will be perfect in your new home. The journey contains within it–all the way–the destination. Peace.

  12. Nina says:

    What an incredible tribute to your grandmother. I love all the pictures and especially the first one with the dive. That’s AMAZING!

    Won’t we be so lucky if our children and grandchildren recognize that we were/are full people. I don’t say that sarcastically. I think many children and grandchildren do NOT see the parental figures in their lives that way. Your grandmother was blessed and it sounds like you were, too.

    Wonderful post.

  13. Tanya Savko says:

    I love this post for so many reasons. One of the “good” things that happened when my dad died was that his friends from high school found me on Facebook and shared stories of what he was like at that age. A completely different chapter than the dad I knew! I loved having those stories to add to my understanding of him; they are precious to me, as I’m sure these pictures are to you. Thank you for sharing them with us! And your beautiful writing, which I will miss when you move and need to step away (hopefully for just a little bit)! I think the fear is unavoidable – it’s human. I’m dealing with copious amounts during my job search. But I keep reminding myself to trust, to breathe, and to feel loved. I will be thinking of all of you as you prepare for this amazing transition.

  14. -e- says:

    What a remarkably lovely and inspiring post. You have brought so many ideas about time and love and evolution into focus here. I hope my future grandchildren find photos with me in awful (but brave?) 80’s hair and are able to get past it to see the wildness there!

  15. Laurel says:

    A grandma, a nan, a nanny, a gamma, a gramma, an omi—the most understated AND underestimated heros in our lives!

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