20 Life Lessons From “Gram”

For the last 11 years, I’ve written thousands of words about my father.

In many respects, there are so many words of love I’ve written about him that it’s a shame he wasn’t alive to read them.

Perhaps that’s a regret of mine.

Not that my father left this world doubting my love for him, he didn’t. I was fortunate that I had time to tell him how much me meant to me over and over again during his final months with us.

However, before I have the same regret with other family members, I’m writing this post to and for someone who is still alive and well.

My grandmother.

LaRue Wright (née Rankin) was born over 89 years ago in Ridgely, Tennessee. Ridgely was also the birthplace of my mother and where my father was laid to rest.

It resides roughly 45 minutes away from my hometown in Union City, Tennessee.

She is my last living grandparent and she still lives in Union City, in a house that has been a part of my life for nearly 47 years.

The first 4 years of my life were spent in Union City, so I was fortunate to spend a lot of time during those years with my grandmother.

She was a schoolteacher from 1976 to 1997. That career became an integral part of my upbringing. I credit Gram with being the one who taught me to read, something I still do voraciously all these years later.

I also credit her with the fact that RevFit would not exist without her. We lost my grandfather and my uncle (her husband and youngest son) in 2008. As a result of their passing, several pieces of rental property in my hometown were left to my grandmother. She did not want to oversee them, so they were gifted to me.

That gift became what funded the opening of my business in 2009.

Growing up, I called her “B’mama” and later it turned to “Gram”.

We would dance to records by Elvis and Mac Davis in her living room, so the love of music that I carry with me today didn’t just come from my parents.

In paying tribute to her and the life she has lived thus far I wanted to write this as much for the benefit of our family as I hope it might be for my readers.

I asked her if she would collaborate with me on this week’s article so that you can have a piece of inspiration from someone I’ve been so privileged to call ours. I’ve edited and adapted our conversation so that it would be a cohesive read.

5 Lessons From Her Career Teaching:

You Have To Be Patient: To be an effective teacher, you not only have to be patient with your students but patient with yourself. Everyone learns at a different pace.

You Have To Accept People As They Are: Not only do we all come from different backgrounds, but we have a different understanding of the world around us. Teaching helped me realize that every child who came to my class required a slightly different set of skills so that they could perform their best.

You’re Adopting A Second Family: There’s the family that I raised and the family that I took care of at school. I had to respect that both of these families required love, attention and care. Each student was coming under my wing so that I could help prepare them for a future as I would the children I brought into this world.

You’re Given Precious Assets: I had to remind myself every day that, in teaching children, I’ve been given someone’s most precious asset. I would argue it’s even more precious than money and material things. People trust you with their children’s best interests and it was up to me to honor and respect that.

Be The Teacher Worth Remembering: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had grown adults come up to me and tell me how grateful they were that I was their teacher in elementary school. To know they looked back on all of those years in the school system and that I was the one they remembered so fondly means I did a commendable job.

5 Lessons From Marriage

-They say that marriage is 50/50. It’s not. It’s 100% of yourself and it’s 100% of your spouse. You may be different people but you still have to give the marriage 100%.

-You have to admit when you’re wrong.

-You have to make compromises.

-Marriage is equal parts love, compassion, patience and understanding.

-Marriage is not easy. It can be a lot of work. You won’t always agree but you have to be committed to each other. (Of note, this year would mark her 70th anniversary if my grandfather was still alive).

5 Lessons To Impart On Your Children

-I wanted all of my children to be raised in a Christian home and to be Christians themselves.

-I wanted all of my children to be successful and to believe in themselves and what they could become.

-I wanted my children to understand and respect the sanctity of marriage.

-I wanted them to take care of themselves and their health.

-I wanted them to value an education: to not just be intelligent but creative as well.

5 Things You Wish You Could Have Done Differently

-I wish I would have gotten my doctorate. It would have taken more time away from my family than what I wanted to do at the time.

-You don’t know what you don’t know but as a parent, I wish I would have known how to help my children and grandchildren with their struggles in life. There’s nothing more difficult to see than the people you love struggle and not know how to help them.

-I would have reminded my husband about how good our life was despite the obstacles we had to overcome. He and I had many conversations before he passed and he kept asking me: “We had a good life, right?” I knew that we had, he knew that we had, but sometimes, we just need reassuring.

-I grew up seeing addictions and infidelity affect various family members. If I would have known how to help them work through those things, I would have. I saw how those vices crippled people and I knew that I just couldn’t go down that road too.

The final lesson needs some explanation. My Oma (my father’s mother) was a Holocaust survivor. Growing up, my Opa expressed to mostly everyone that we not discuss the war around her. I speculate it was because the conversation could easily trigger feelings that may not be easy to overcome. Nevertheless, sometimes Oma would discuss the concentration camps on her own. After my Opa passed, she was even more forthcoming with those experiences.

-I would have asked your Oma more about the war and her time in the camps. I believe it was therapeutic for her to talk about it even though we were discouraged from doing so. I always wanted to respect that your Opa didn’t want the subject brought up but she and I had many conversations about those experiences and I just wish I could have learned more. You know what she told me? She said: “You need to tell my story so that people will learn to be kind to each other.”