Direction – Focus – Action

Early Monday morning, on Halloween, my grandmother passed away.  It’s hard to wrap my head around now, just a couple of days later.  I spent the last 48 hours trying to think of good memories of her to hold onto, to tell my future children, to define as her legacy to my mom and aunt, me, my sisters, and my one cousin on that side of the family.  It was difficult.

My memories of her are mostly of a slightly cranky lady in a housecoat, who cursed in Finnish and made banana bread.  The banana bread was always amazing, always wrapped in aluminum foil to bring to us, before it was spread with butter.  Her house smelled like mashed rutabagas – the aroma from years and years of her and her mother cooking them had permeated the walls.  We used to call her Grandma Sami – a name that we gave her because it was the name of her cat.   I remember the tiny sauna attached to the garage at her old house, across the tiny yard where peonies and daphne and rhubarb would explode in flower and leaf every spring.  I remember the meltaway mints in a cut glass candy dish in the living room, and the intricate pleats on satin pinwheel cushions on an oddly scratchy davenport (not a sofa, because it wasn’t comfortable!), and doilies pinned to the head and arm rests on every piece of upholstered furniture.  I remember the way the 1950s starburst pattern dining room floor was buckled from moisture, so it crackled and moved as you walked on it.  I remember how she used to take photos with the camera upside-down, because she couldn’t press the button with her right finger after she’d had a stroke at age 50.  I remember that she always sent birthday cards and Easter cards and Christmas cards, and always sent a little money in them – somehow managing to find those long cards with the money pockets years after they stopped selling them in most stores.

Aside from those images, I don’t remember many conversations with her.  She’d lived a life full of anxiety, fear, frustration, neglect, and disappointment.  I believe that her joys came from her daughters and granddaughters, but she was of the old Finnish school of never showing emotion, never talking about anything personal, and rarely showing affection.  I don’t remember talking with her about those things in her life.  By the time I was old enough to think to ask, she’d started to decline in health.  She lived over 2 hours away from Seattle, so I didn’t make it out to see her very often, and she didn’t really like to talk on the telephone.  I have a handful of regrets that live in the place she has in my mind, and I will miss her.

The legacy she left, at least for me, is one of motivation.  All her life she was afraid to take chances, to seize opportunities, to go after what she wanted.  She spent so much energy and time on being frustrated, and ended up filling her days with monotonous chores, endless routines, and little creativity.  Her life has reminded me to stop wasting time on being frustrated and angry.  It has been a wake-up call, showing me that what is really important is to enjoy your life, to look for what you want and not be afraid to go out and get it.

For the last few weeks, since returning from our honeymoon, I’ve felt a little listless, a bit directionless, unmotivated.  I feel like I’ve been treading water, without land in sight, and letting my life become part of a monotonous routine.  Aside from reconnecting with friends and family (after countless months neglecting them to work on the wedding planning), it has felt like I haven’t been really engaged in my life.  Well, no more.  I’ve been inspired to focus my energy and take back control.  I’ve got goals and projects I actually want to work on, and things that I’ve been putting off that need to be picked up again.  Now is a time for action.  It’s not very effective to just pledge this today and then forget about it – just like having a good attitude, just like being happy in marriage, this is a conscious decision that I have to make EVERY DAY.

So today, I choose to begin.




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