How I learned to be bold from my sassy grandmother

My grandmother was speeding one day and a police officer pulled her over and gave her a ticket. After the officer gave her the ticket, she took off and ten minutes later she got pulled over again. By the same police officer. In her charming yet bodacious southern drawl she said: Lordy, officer, if I’d known you were coming my way, I’d have offered you a ride. That’s how I learned to be bold from my sassy grandma. And also to offer to help others.

My dad didn’t like my grandmother

Dad never liked my grandmother. My mom’s family was Protestant and my dad was an Irish-Catholic. Remember that for decades the United States discriminated against Irish-Catholics and apparently my grandmother was not feeling the love when she met her future son-in-law.

My grandmother was wealthy. She made money buying real-estate and she even had the road she lived on named after her. English Forest Road. Her last name was English. To show her subtle disdain for my dad’s religion, she gave him and my mom a small, modest wedding. Truth be told, in a picture from their wedding day, their faces glowed with happiness, but my dad still held a grudge for many years. This is where I disagreed with my grandmother, but no one’s perfect.

My grandmother on family planning

When my mom had her first child, she called to tell my grandmother and she said: Well, Anne, that’s a nice family. My mom had seven more kids. She become accustomed to calling my grandmother from the hospital to tell her about the newest baby. That’s where I learned there was a time a place to relate “sensitive” information to my grandmother and to have a small family. I may have over-done it by her standards. I have three kids.

My grandmother never spoke directly to my dad

It rattled my dad’s chain because my grandmother never spoke directly to him, as if he wasn’t even there. If they were eating, she’d ask my mom (Anne) : Anne, does Jim want some more potatoes? Or, Anne, how is Jim’s medical practice going? If they were golfing, she’d say: Anne, tell Jim it’s his turn to hit. Or, Lordy, Anne, Jim doesn’t know how to hit that ball–he needs some lessons. I’m sure the golf observation sent my dad into an internal rage, because he was very competitive and scoffed when anyone told him what to do-especially my grandmother. I don’t think he ever spoke up though. My guess is that he was terrified of her. That’s where I learned we can all use a dose of humility at times.

My grandmother redefined impatience

She used to take me shopping with her, starting at the age of around 10. We would’ve barely opened the door to the store when she would blurt as many times as it took to get someone’s attention : Doesn’t anybody work here? Then she’d look at me and exclaim: Lordy, I don’t have all day. I would cower in red-faced embarrassment looking for the nearest exit. Sometimes my grandfather would be with us and he’d take me gently by the hand and buy me a Coke-cola (he used to say in his charming drawl) and relieve me from my shame. She must have figured somebody had notified them that she was coming. She was brazen. In all fairness, her sister, my Aunt Janie, did the same thing. It must have been a “family thing.” This is where I learned what good customer service was all about.

My grandmother was classy and sassy

My stylish, bold grandmother (not really her, but an example of her style)

(This picture is not my grandmother, but a good example of how she dressed. The feature picture is my real grandmother). My grandmother was brazen, and when I was with her, I’m sure I was shaking inside, but between her mirthful laugh, her “Lordy,” and charismatic southern drawl, I was star-struck.

We lived in Michigan and she lived in Pulaski, Virginia. A few times a year, my parents would drive us to her house and dump the seven of us off for some much needed rest. I remember sitting in her kitchen smelling the savory bacon and eggs she made me. And every breakfast included a glass a fresh orange juice and a slice of sweet, juicy cantaloupe. I learned you can still be happy with bold and brazen people even though you’re a little shaky inside.

She was sassy and classy.  People’s jaws dropped, not only because of her beauty, but the way she sashayed around, in her colorful garish dresses and clanging jewelry. She adorned her flashing dresses with large beaded necklaces, bracelets and rings. And she wrote the book on accessorizing!  Her vibrant colored shoes, belts, purses, jewelry and glasses were all the same color. They all matched–it was incredible.  I would’ve loved to get lost in her closet in that rainbow of dazzling accoutrements.  Her outfits clamored I am bold and sassy. I can only aspire to be the fashion icon she was.

My grandmother never minced words

She never minced words. She commented to my Aunt Margaret one time after not seeing her for a while: Why Margaret, you’vgained. Margaret was my dad’s sister and she didn’t like my grandmother much either.  My grandmother was very direct about expressing people’s weight gain. I do not do that. Sorry Gran — that’s kind of mean.

No one in my family liked my grandmother. She terrified everybody, but I adored her southern charm, her slightly cynical laugh, her bold outbursts — saying anything that occurred to her. And I was so shy and afraid to speak up about anything, so I got to live vicariously through her. She helped me to find my own voice and for that I am forever grateful.

How I learned to be bold and sassy from my grandmother

Let’s review how my grandmother prepared me for life. Her encounter with the police officer taught me to offer to help people. She taught me that there’s a time and place to tell people sensitive information — like you had one child, but now you’re in the hospital with your 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th. I learned to sashay and dress to impress. And because of her, I found my voice, even though it took a long time. Her boldness left a lasting impression on me. I learned to admire women who were bold, brazen and sassy. They are not to be feared, scorned or rejected — because they are the ones who let their true spirits out into the universe.

Here’s a great book to check out for more bold and brazen women: Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World 

Leave a comment about an influential “bold” relative you have or had. Or shoot me an email.—Kathy

Picture of Kathy the blogger
Kathy the blogger

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