A tribute to my grandma on her 90th birthday month, and what I’ve learned from her.
My grandma, who I call Mommaw, is one of the most amazing women I have ever known. She turns 90 this month and still amazes and inspires me every single day. Maybe she hasn’t done anything that the world would consider outstanding or great, but really, maybe the world should change what they consider outstanding and great.
One of her greatest accomplishments is her ability to keep a soft heart and love those around her well. At times, her life would not have been considered an easy one. But, her gentle spirit, love, and compassion for people have seen her through all of her adversities.
It is not uncommon for people, as they age, to become more prone to being irritable. This is not the case for her though. Things that might cause aggravation for most older people, seem to be things that she thrives on. My family always says that she loves chaos. She really does; she seems to be the happiest when kids are running around and making noise, and just being happy kids.
Throughout her life, she has found herself fighting some battles that I know she would’ve preferred not to fight. But it was what was before her, and she fought well. She is human and has made mistakes, but she has chosen to fight most of her battles on her knees, and it shows.
As a pastor’s wife, I have often prayed that God would help me to have a thick backbone and skin, but to also keep a soft heart. If I’m being honest, that is not an easy thing to do sometimes. Not only as a pastor’s wife, but for anyone. She has succeeded in it and when I see myself getting bitter and wanting to be cold to others, I remind myself of the beauty that I see in her and it helps me to not get caught up in what I feel.
Some of my earliest memories of her include her bribing me to come to her house with a cheese tray she had bought, or doughnuts, or sautéed mushrooms. She loved it when any of us were there, and she fed us well.
At every family gathering you could count on her making her cathead biscuits. Even when she wasn’t able to physically make them anymore, she would give instructions to whoever was there at the time, and we would still have her biscuits. Thankfully, a couple family members got the hang of it, so the tradition will live on!!
I didn’t realize that a lot of people didn’t know what cathead biscuits were. Just to explain, they are the most delicious biscuits that were so big, they used to say that they were the size of a cat’s head. That’s where they got their name. They are also called new ground biscuits because years ago, all of the women would get together, while their husbands were tilling the ground to plant their gardens and make them as a treat. They really are very good.
Mommaw lives with my parents now, and they care for her. My aunt goes to their house a couple times a week to allow them to get out and get groceries, run errands, or whatever they need, or want, to do. A few weeks ago, my aunt was recovering from a surgery and wasn’t able to go. Thankfully, I was blessed to be able to go stay with her a few hours per week during that time.
Mommaw loves to sit outside and soak up some sunshine and we were blessed with beautiful days each time I was there and were able to be outside for a while. One of those days in particular, she was just consumed with the goodness of God.
She was in awe of how He has made everything work together. She was trying to figure out things like how the flowers come up from beneath the ground every year without anyone doing anything to them. And how ducks and chickens both lay eggs, but they are different. She kept saying, “Ain’t that strange”? She would be still for a minute and then say something like, “Now I’m thinking of watermelons. Where did they come from? We didn’t make them!”
When she grew tired of trying to figure out the miracle of life and how God has made it all work together, she finally said, “That’s just God stuff. He takes something that isn’t anything and it’s hard telling what it will wind up when He’s done with it. It’s just miracles. There’s just nothing we can do about it. Just say it’s a miracle and go on.”
“Yes,” I said with chills running down my spine. “That’s just God stuff.” Thinking of what God has done in my life and what He has made of me. Also, realizing that He’s not finished yet and that I have a great hope for the future He has for me.
I was so blessed and inspired by her childlike wonder of God and His creation that day. It made me realize that while I have picked some of that up from her, there’s so much that I miss. When my mind is busy being amazed by how good God is to us, and understanding that he really has thought of and taken care of every little detail, there’s not much room for things like worry and aggravation. I can be at peace because I know that God is very much alive and active and working miracles in my life every single day.
I have also watched her as one of the things she loves has been taken away. She fell and broke her arm a little over a year ago, which took with it her ability to play her guitar. She had to have her arm in a brace for four months, which was longer than it needed to be but it was when all of the chaos of Covid was starting and everything was postponed. The way they had her arm in the sling had her hand positioned in an unnatural way. When she was finally able to stop wearing it, her hand was only able to return to its natural position after months of therapy.
She actually did physical and occupational therapy until they couldn’t approve any more visits, and then, she kept doing it on her own. Just a few months ago, she wasn’t able to hold the chords on her guitar because her hands were so weak. Guess what she’s doing now. Playing the guitar, of course. Not as well as she would like, but I have no doubt that she will just keep getting better because she doesn’t give up.
The doctor says that she shouldn’t be walking right now either because of how bad her back is, but she’s doing that too. My cousin says that she’s like the bumble bee that doesn’t know she can do things, so she goes ahead and does them!
She has played the guitar since she was a child. She told us about them having to stand her on a box to be able to reach a microphone to play and sing on a radio program when she was little. She wanted to play again so bad. So, she worked on it. At almost 90 years old, she didn’t give up. She gets discouraged, but she keeps trying. And she’s getting better every day! We are all proud and inspired by her work ethic. When I want to give up, I think about her determination, and I keep going. She is an example to all of us.
Something else that others have sometimes viewed as a weakness, I see as strength. She is able to laugh at herself. She does, and has always done, silly things. When she does, her response is to laugh at herself. She also shares it with us so we can laugh too! I would much rather be around someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously than someone who gets mad at themselves all the time. We all do silly things, lighten up and laugh a little.
She is awesome, but she’s not perfect. She has also made some mistakes a little more on the serious side. For those times, she repents, hard. I’ve seen her ask for forgiveness for things that most people wouldn’t have thought twice about. She honestly has the most tender heart. I know she wouldn’t hurt anyone purposefully, but if she did, you can expect a heartfelt apology.
I do understand that not everyone has been blessed to receive the treasure that I have of being able to know and learn from your grandparents. To be able to watch them see and enjoy the beauty of the simple things. To love big, not just the people closest to them, but God and everyone they come in contact with. To live in community with people and truly welcome them, not only into their homes but their lives.
I’m so sorry if you didn’t get to experience that. I do know that there are some of these people who are still here that don’t have anyone to share their wisdom with. I encourage you to find them and learn from them. It will do both of you a lot of good.
Mommaw will turn 90 years old soon. She has numerous health problems and can’t stand or walk without assistance. She is weak in a lot of ways, but she is also one of the strongest women I know. I hope I’m half the woman she is someday.
I wanted to share this song that I wrote about her last year after her 89th birthday. My family always calls her the queen, and she is.
Telina Frye is the author of Dare to Dream, as well as a pastor’s wife and mother to her 13 year old son and 10 year old daughter.
She is a singer/songwriter and a natural born dreamer. Telina is also credentialed in the Church of God as an Exhorter and holds a Minister of Music License. She serves as the worship leader at the church where her husband serves as lead pastor.
Telina loves having deep, meaningful conversations about what is and what could be. She hopes this blog will inspire readers to dare to look past what is, see what can be, and reach for the impossible.