I am lucky enough to have my grandmother still in my life. She’s 90 years old and smart as a whip. She calls me, sends me letters, sends my kids dollar bills in envelopes and crochets, knits and makes delicious desserts. She plays the piano by ear and can play absolutely any song from any genre of music in no less than 10 seconds flat. She is the Captain of her table at dinner each night at her retirement community and she is the life of the party.
She also has nine lives, a French-Canadian temper and the gift of advice.
There have been many years in my life where my Gram’s advice has been shrugged off and deemed an extreme pain in the ass. But, as I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve started to listen more to what she says. Believe me there are times where her advice can go too far like one Thankgiving dinner where the topic of her advice was “pleasing your man is the key to a healthy relationship.” That was a winner. There are also those times she discusses the merits or lack thereof with abortion, same sex marriage and other highly controversial issues. She also has the tendency to quote her good friend Dr. Phil, who says things like “it takes two to tango” and “love only grows when it’s fed and watered.” Got it, Phil.
But then there are times like today, when I call her to check in and see how she’s doing and her advice really resonates with me. She always asks me about my job. She thinks it’s amazing that I have a career and am a mom – something women didn’t do in her day. She always asks about the kids and how they are liking school, what new things they are doing and interested in. We got to talking about my daughter’s desire to take piano lessons. And her words of wisdom flowed from the piano.
As I mentioned before, Gram never took lessons. There was no time and no money. If you wanted to learn how to play the piano, you taught yourself. She started talking about kids these days and how they can’t focus on anything, have too much distracting them and get things too easy. She talked about melody and harmony and how the melody is important but the harmony can really make the song. It is made up of two different tones but when they are played together, they make magic. She told me about practice and how her sister hogged the piano all the time so that she could get better at the piano and, guess what…she did. My Gram gives her credit for that. She talked about priorities and how you decide what’s important and what’s not when you decide which notes to play and which ones just clutter up the piece. She talked about passion and how she loves nothing more than playing her piano and how it is her greatest passion and takes her to new places and back to ones she will never forget. She talked about how life is like playing the piano. There are times when you sit down to play and it’s all wrong. The piano is out of tune, your ear doesn’t hear the song, you can’t remember the words. Then there are times when you play a song people haven’t heard in years and you light up the room and are on cloud nine. There are times when you remember a song and feel sad or play a song and laugh and sing and hold hands. Regardless of what you feel, every time you play, it’s different.
My interpretation of her advice is pretty simple.
- Differences can often be the perfect compliment.
- You can only master something if you practice.
- Focus means prioritizing. Prioritizing means deciding what not to do.
- Having a passion in life is a gift.
- Having a life that has ups and downs and in betweens is just life.
Thanks, Gram, for sharing your endless advice. I might not always appreciate it, but I always listen and am starting to finally see the wisdom.