I come from a line of strong willed, I can do it myself, I WILL do it myself, don’t believe me? watch me, women. Telling one of these women that they can’t do something doesn’t give way for retreat, it ignites a spark that pushes her to success. Even when I fail, I want to do it by myself and on my own terms. I guess that part of me never really matured past the age of 3.
A few days ago I decided to mow our lawn. Our gas mower was broken, but I had a manual push mower (I call it the “Ftftft mower” while flipping my hand in a circle – which is the international female sign for all things that rotate). In a kind of cross between June Cleaver and a Mud Run I decided to mow the lawn with said push mower, in 95 degree weather with 752% humidity, with a head cold that was kicking my butt, and after only 4 hours of sleep. Why, you ask. Why not. So it shouldn’t have surprised me when I started to get a little dizzy…and clammy…and my heart was about ready to beat out of my chest. The problem wasn’t that I needed to go inside and cool off, or heaven forbid do something rational, like perhaps stop. No. The problem was that my body didn’t understand the day before my husband had sealed my fate by telling me there was no way I could use the push mower to mow the lawn. What?!?! So I did the only logical thing I could do at that point. I sized up the yard, found the half way point and went a few passes beyond that for the sole purpose of telling Dan that I mowed over half of the lawn. With the push mower. Ha! There! Eat that!
What is wrong with me?
Turns out this stubborn apple didn’t fall far from the tree – or at least it choose to not fall far from the tree. It broke loose and stared at the tree with unblinking eyes during its entire decent. Didn’t even flinch when it hit the ground. Because it fell on it’s own terms.
Fifteen years ago I took Dan to meet my grandma, Lorraine, for the first time. An 80 year old widow living on her own, Lorraine had just recently had her chainsaw removed by my dad and aunt. In case you missed that, I said chainsaw. After knocking on her door for several minutes with no answer I became concerned. Growing up, I rarely turned the knob on her front door, and almost always saw her standing in the door frame before getting out of the car. Right as I told Dan we needed to get one of the neighbors, my grandma appeared in the doorway short of breath and obviously sweating. My first thought was heart attack. Lorraine quickly apologized and explained that she had been out back chopping firewood. Lorraine, at 80 years old and 115lbs was wielding an axe in her back yard wearing polyester pants and matching blouse, chopping firewood. Why? Not because she was short on help. She had a son, son-in-law, and 2 grandsons, all over 6 feet tall, strong, and all willing to help her. And that was the problem. She didn’t need help. She just needed an axe and a few logs. She could do it herself.
Recently, while in the hospital she was considered a fall risk and was supposed to call a nurse whenever she wanted to get out of bed. First thing she said? “I don’t need help. I can do it myself.” And she did. After a few dozen trials, an alarm was placed on her bed to let the nurses know when she got up. It worked at first. She got up, the alarm went off, nurses came in, helped her, offered a smile and a reminder to use the call button. I’m sure she drove them bananas. That routine worked right up until Lorraine rigged the alarm so it didn’t go off. You gotta love this woman. I can just picture her, arms crossed, lips pursed, not looking at anyone in the room while she let them know exactly how little help she needed and how ridiculous the whole charade was.
Lorraine’s great-granddaughter is following suit as well. The other day Natalie decided to use her walker during a family walk. When Dan and I told her we didn’t think she could make it the whole way, her face quickly went from and excited “may I please,” to a very serious “I’m doing this.” I know that look. It’s the look my grandma got when she was hell-bent on something. It’s the same look I get. And I know only a fool argues with it. Natalie made it, but barely. Her legs were shaking when she got home, and she needed to be carried around the house after that, but she was proud that she did and that she did it by herself.
My grandma, like her daughter, and granddaughters, and her great-granddaughter was a strong woman. She didn’t give up or given in. She was persistent – to a fault. But what a great fault to have. I wish for my daughter to know that she isn’t strong willed by accident but by design. It is engrained in her DNA. She needs that will power. She needs to show others she can when they see her wheelchair and assume she can’t. This week we say goodbye to my grandma one last time. As we do, my heart is filled with gratitude for her strong willed, bullheaded, can-do, will-do, spirit. What an incredible blessing to pass on to her girls.