One of my favorite pastimes is reading with writing coming in a close second. Whenever I read something I find interesting I make a note of it. I believe it is important for posterity.
I was privileged to have an eyewitness to many of the events that I write about, and had the foresight to document the historical accounts provided me by my grandmother, the late Joanna Randleston-Crimmin. I even went so far as to tape many of our conversations for historical accuracy. I find the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow intriguing and he wrote the following, “The lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime and departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time.”
I will take the liberty to include the lives of women as well. Last December I wrote about my grandfather who died when I was eight years old and never really got to know him well. I cherish memories of him, however brief.
My grandmother on the other hand, had a major impact on my life. I was almost thirty years old when she died and she insisted that when her time came to go – she wanted to die. Not merely pass away, as some people did. Grandma never had the opportunity to go to college but was determined that I should, she only finished the third grade. As far as I am concerned, she had a “real life” Ph.D. My grandmother taught me that character is formed not by laws or decrees, but by quiet influence, unconscious suggestion and personal guidance.
Mark Twain recalls that when he was a boy of 14 his father was so ignorant he could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when Twain got to be 21, he was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years. My experience was totally different. I recognized from the beginning of conscious memory that my grandmother was a rare treasure. Not only was she an encyclopedia of knowledge regarding Bay Island’s history, but also an eternal optimist, deeply religious, having enormous faith, hope and practical wisdom. She was very proud of her heritage and was not bashful in communicating it to others, especially me. She also had strong convictions, which she considered essential for any successful course of action.
Over the years I have gained more and more respect for the wisdom dispensed by my grandmother and she was undoubtedly my greatest teacher. She maintained that work not only benefited the mind and pocket book but body, emotions and soul. Work she said, keeps all parts of the human body in order. Just as machines rust out faster than they wear out, so do people. Nobody ever accused her of not speaking her mind. She readily offered her opinions unsolicited. On one such occasion she impulsively uttered this phrase: “There’s nothing free in this world, even the good Lord charges rent.” I responded: “How so grandma?” She replied that tithes and offerings are required by the Lord. I countered that many people did not believe in paying tithes and offerings to the church. Her witty reply was: “Well, you either pay now, or pay in full later.”
Of course, grandma was by no means perfect, she had her flaws. She never used exclamation points for emphasis, she employed expletives. In Island lingo “she could cuss like a sailor”. She would not allow me to do the same however. I once told her, grandma, practice what you preach to which she replied, name one bleepity, bleep, bleep, bleep who does, nobody does. If you’re going to practice it, why preach it? Somehow that makes more sense to me now than it did back then. After all, she was able to pass on her legacy to me, minus the cussing.
Grandma Joanna was a character alright, a most unforgettable one. At this very special time of year, we tend to focus on family and friends. Even if some of those significant others are departed, there is always something for which to be thankful. My most vivid memories of Christmases spent with grandma are not of gifts given or received, but of the spirit of love, the cherish practices of the home. Christmas then, is love in action when you love someone you give to them as God gives to us. The greatest gift He ever gave was the person of his son, which is why we celebrate Christmas.