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September 14, 2011

My Grandmother: The Eleanor Roosevelt Story. ~ Dylan Owens

Photo: Paul Simpson

In honor of National Grandparents Day, which was this past Sunday.

Where were you in 1916? Alive?

Probably not, I’m guessing. Most of us kicking around right now were no more than an unsavory thought in our grandfather’s head back then. Regardless, 1916 was a hell of a year for a few reasons:

The Boy Scouts of America are incorporated by then President Woodrow Wilson (who would go on to win reelection to his second term later in the year).

Photo: Woody 1778a

–  Einstein publishes his theory of relativity, which to this day most everyone agrees is their favorite theory of relativity.

–  The government tries to disallow caffeine from Coca-Cola in the straight-forwardly named case “the United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola.” The best part: half of their argument consisted of the fact that their name illegally misrepresented their product as it “contained no coca and little if any cola.” I can only imagine what they would have to say about the energy drinks of today (Red Bull and Bawls, I’m lookin’ at you).

– The light switch is invented. This one really puts it in perspective. The light switch is one of those things you don’t think of as an invention per se, but more of a logical progression that came about with the lightbulb. But such was not the case; the light bulb came about some 37 years earlier according to hour three of my Wikipedia tangent,  similar to the 16 year difference between America’s Funniest Home Videos’ establishment of the cat video and the commodifying thereof by Youtube.

And, most importantly, my grandmother is born. And she’ll be 95 years old September 27th. Which is bananas.

She’s an incredible 95, too. Unlike a lot of elderly folk of her age, she’s still got a sharp wit and incredible sense of humor that always makes me wonder what she was like when she was my age.

The best I have to go off of are stories I’ve heard from her contemporaries around town back home. During our walks around the local farmer’s market, it was commonplace to hear some elderly gentleman yell her nickname (“Toots!”) before emerging from behind some corn stand for a quick chat. Invariably, I’d get introduced, and the man would regale me with a story about her that she’d have been too modest—or embarrassed, sometimes—to tell. Some would tell me about what a fantastic Christian she is (duh), while others would reveal this fascinating part of her life I’d have never known about, like how she used to be a beer-swilling pool shark at a local bar (!?).  But the most common were stories of her beauty—that back in the day she was the prettiest girl in town, with hair like gilded silk. And I could only sit and imagine how many nickels worth of chocolate malt she’d swindled those guys out of, the suckers (none of them were my grandpa).

Toots

But her (obvious) popularity aside, she’s objectively incredible. This is a woman who risked her job in the depression era to secretly marry her coworker (their employer disallowed more than one person per family in a given factory), smoked for twenty-odd years before quitting cold turkey when its deleterious effects were outed, survived cervical cancer and, at 94, still tries to shovel her driveway come winter. How does she do it? Well, this would be the part where I’d sell you her secret health-fortifying diet regiment for a jaw-slackening low price, but as far as I know, the Cherry-Coke-chicken-noodle-soup-and-ham-sandwich diet hasn’t held up well in clinical studies.

That she’s been through and seen so much and is as strong as she is today amazes me. She’s a sweet elderly glimmer of strength and inspiration—a modern day Eleanor Roosevelt, really.

As it stands right now, I don’t know whether or not I’ll see 95. My priorities right now lie within the realms of food, weekends and school, and the furthest I’ve planned ahead is the premiere of the next season of Mad Men. But she’s my reason for wanting to hit my golden years. I want to be 95 so I can have that same grandfatherly influence on the hell-spawn of the hell-spawn that will someday be my hellsquad; and so after my time is up, I can look down with her as they successfully rob their third bank and say “Look what I did, grandma. No, you know what?  Look what we did.”

 

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Dylan Owens is currently a senior in the creative writing program at the University of Colorado. As an ex-baby model, he peaked early, but is mounting a comeback as a writer for elephant journal and the Boulder Today. You can learn about his exploits and interests via photo, blurb and hand-picked Youtube video on his Twitter, or simply Google “pickle recipes,” “life-sized Jenga” and “PBR&B” for the same effect.

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