Personal Icons

I’ve written about them before, probably with more poetry and thought. On the anniversary of my paternal grandmother’s death, I want to take a moment to pay respect to the many women I admire.

Elizabeth Thouvenel lost both of her parents at a young age and helped raise her younger sisters. She ran a boarding house for several years while going to school and raising her sisters. She ceded official control of the boarding house to her middle sister when Grandma went to work for a local real estate company. She invested her savings well, made sure her sisters married well, and then met the love of her life. She live nearly thirty years before meeting an Oregon State Trooper, they were married for thirty years before he died, and she lived a full, fully independent life for nearly thirty years before she needed to turn to family for help.

My maternal grandmother was blessed in wholly different ways. She grew up with an often divorced, often single, mother in a time where no one wanted to admit single mothers existed. She and her younger sister grew into women who loved helping others and turned that into marketable skills. Darlene Reese Fletcher has two great loves in her life and found a way to be happy and fulfilled after more than sixty years of marriage to two men who really understood and loved her. She raised children, influenced a brood of grandchildren, and still finds ways to keep her circle of friends (new and old) vibrant and full of love.

My mother developed gestational diabetes with me; and, it exploded on her between my and my younger brother’s birth. It started to affect her health dramatically the same year I started teaching. I’m impressed by the constant renegotiation she and my father have weaved through for 46 years; I’m amazed by her ability to deal with declining health, and a declining quality of life, with grace and faith. [My father loves her to the point that he would rather be her caretaker than see her taken away, and , luckily, they both have enough mobility to make this continue to work.]

My closest female friends amaze me with their resilience, their willingness to love and lose and love again, their passion for their work. They have raised or are raising (or are helping to raise) some pretty amazing human beings. They are strong and passionate and kind.

Even with the humanity and flaws each of these women acknowledge and deal with, they work hard to be the best versions of themselves just like the women before me in my family.

I just want to thank every woman who does her best with what she has, every woman who tries to teach the children in her care to be true and to be kind and to be their best selves, every woman who stumbles or falls and rises again. They each play a part in who I aspire to be whether it’s risking their hearts, their financial security, or letting go of the plan they thought they had for their lives. Thank you all.