Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My grandmother and college

So here’s another family story. This picture is of my grandmother (Mana) and isn’t dated although she looks quite young. She wrote on the back of it that she thought her dress was pretty and she hoped whomever the recipient was would also think so. I suspect Mana made the dress herself – she was quite a good sewist.

I don’t know all the details of this story, so here's what I do know. Mana’s parents didn’t have a lot of money but they did send her to college for either a semester or a year, I don’t remember. Then they told her it was her sister’s turn to go and so Mana never got to finish college. She ended up marrying my grandfather and having four children: my mother, my uncle and twin girls, my aunts.

You need a bit of information about me for the rest of the story to make sense. I’d joined the Army right out of high school and didn’t start college until I was 29. I dropped out a couple of years later as my entire personal life imploded and wasn’t able to go back until my late thirties.

By the time I was able to go back to school very part time, my grandmother was dying from colon cancer. I flew out to see her in early February that year for a final visit. She was still entirely herself, her brain and personality hadn’t been impacted by the disease and the only time there was any impairment was when she had to take her pain meds.

I sat with her that Saturday, and she had me tell her what I was doing with myself. She’d drift off from time to time and at one point woke up enough to say “I’ll be with you momentarily.” That simultaneously made me smile and feel really sad.

Anyway, the point of the story is this. After I’d told her my plans to finish school even if it took me five years, she patted my hand and as fiercely as she ever said anything, she told me “You finish college. Get that degree.”

I flew home the next day and she died the following weekend. And I did finish college, I did get that degree. I had a chance to walk around KU the day I graduated (because you’d better believe I walked down the hill) and I told Mana that I did it, I’d finished and it was partly because of what she'd said.


Jeanne said...

Finishing is important, not always for the degree but for what it teaches you and shows others about how far you can go for what you want.

Magpie said...

what jeanne said rings true: it's the only reason i finished my MA.

also, lovely photo of your grandmother.