August 17, 2004
Achievement, a tribute
I wrote the following in honor of my grandmother's eightieth birthday in November of last year, and I believe it suitable for sharing on my blog. I have still not fulfilled my promise of sending a copy to her, but when I find out the decor style of her brand new townhouse, I'll make sure what I send her goes with everything.
AchievementA measure of success is the nature of one's achievements over the course of a lifetime. But what is to say what constitutes an achievement? It cannot be said that material wealth alone is the element, for one can begin and end a life in wealth and privilege yet still have made no more impact than a whisper cast against the winds of a hurricane.
If one is searching for achievement, she may only need look at her own reflection in the faces and lives other progeny. If she has done well, the fortitude other convictions and guidance of her loving hand will be shared between generations for decades to come. As they gather to celebrate her, they demonstrate the impact she has had on each of their lives.
Although in 1966, Myrtle was young to be a grandmother, she had the experience of five of my siblings and cousins, some of whom were already in school and all of whom were out of diapers. She was the eldest in her own close family, so taking on a leadership role in the rearing and care of her own children came naturally, and she raised three daughters and had participated in the upbringing of numerous nieces, nephews, and five grandchildren by the time she was forty-three. By the end of 1966, it's safe to say she knew what she was doing with children and she did it well.
Then I came along. I first met Myrtle Spigner as a babe, long before my earliest memories. I do not know how we met, but if the meeting went like those who have come after me, I likely gazed at this remarkable woman through my sleepy eyes in the arms of my own mother. Certainly I must have been confused at how much she resembled Donna. I was most likely frightened by the funny sounds and faces she made in an attempt to jolt me from my somnolence.
I was somewhat of a prodigy as a small child, and received frequent attention for such little gems as reading the newspaper at four, reciting state capitals at six, and the ability to speak fluent French at eight. I've no doubt that this participated in the development of an adorably swelled little head. Arrogance alone would have been tolerable in such a small wonder, but in me they were coupled with rampant hyperactivity, a complete and utter lack of self-control, and an emotional volatility that approached the volcanic proportions of Mount Vesuvius.
It's fair to say that I was most often treated differently than other children around me. Sometimes my extreme reactions would earn me more severe consequences and sometimes the rod would be stayed just to prevent such a reaction. The manner in which most adults responded to me depended on how well they knew me and their level of patience.
Momma Myrtle often had custody of any number of her grandchildren, and she experienced some of my worst outbursts. Her response was always measured and swift. Before I could turn my head, I was not playing, I was not eating candy, I was in the midst of my punishment and no amount of pleading would earn my release. But with her, I could never dig myself in deeper, for she always treated the insults and cruelties I flung at her with simple laughter, like they were only the powerless words of a angry and frustrated little boy. And when my penalty had expired, I was no different than any other child under her roof and was always welcome back.
As I got older and matured somewhat, my tantrums became less and less. My ego, however, remained inflated. When 1 began to see my place and where I fit into society, I began to develop political ideology that emphasized civil liberties, equal protection and public works. I soon discovered that Myrtle's ideology did not fall in line with my own, nor was she shy about it. I felt betrayed that my own grandmother could have beliefs so radically different than my own. She remained unmoved by my arguments, citing my world view as naive and unrealistic. I always ended up storming away, red-faced and frustrated, convinced of my absolute lightness and moral superiority.
Momma Myrtle, on the other hand, remained true to herself. Where others had condemned me, written me off, or insulted me, she continued to treat me with the same dignity and respect with which she treated my siblings and my cousins.
On paper. Myrtle Spigner was a devoted wife for nearly sixty years and is the mother of three beautiful daughters. She has been a faithful and supportive member of the same church for most of her life, and has made many friends over the course of it. People find her pleasant and intelligent, sympathetic and strong.
But her greatest achievement/to me, cannot be explained in a one-paragraph biography. While I have at times been upset by her-I have always loved and as a grown man, I have come to admire her. It is from her that I developed my sense of fairness and my sense of equality. Because of her I am a more honest man, a more tolerant man, and a more patient man. From the moment I met her. Myrtle Spigner has been larger than life. I see her reflection and influence in my cousins, my aunts, my siblings, niece, nephews and my mother, and so many others whom she has touched.
She has made the world a better place, and I love her for it.
Thanks Momma Myrtle.
Posted by Bastique at August 17, 2004 11:30 AM