Special thanks to Ms. Franni Coffi, my adoptive Nana, sounding board and guiding light. Love you.
I lost my grandma at age 84, almost 7 years ago. I was 32. I miss, do miss her everyday. Without a doubt, without reservation—every day I miss her. I miss her presence most of all. I miss just being where she is, where she was. I miss the anchoring nature of her presence—no matter how bad my life was, my grandmother understood. And she loved me.
This is the paradox of youth. You believe you are the bastion of all knowledge before age 25, especially as a girl child soon to be a woman. You believe the world will bend to you, will give you allowances and treat you special because you are you.
The beautiful thing about my Grandma, my Nan as I call her now since her death, was I was beginning to be able to talk to her. I learned the power of silence, understanding my responsibility as a mother—and realizing how HARD this job is! But the odd thing? Since her passing, I’ve collected other older women her age. They have given me advice, wisdom and courage.
Last month, I read about Mattie Malone: a 105-year-old woman in East St. Louis, IL that fed the children in her community as well as the 12 she had! In reading her story, I saw the mystic nature older Black women have! They are our evidence we as Black women can do any and everything! She mentored girls in her community, advocated for the children in her community and became a pillar! This is why it’s devastating when women like Ms. Mattie and when my Grandma, Arceal, die.
This is also why one of the most powerful resource we have as a community is older Black women!
In working in long term care, there’s an exchange that happens. I’ve had no less than 5 women adopt me. That’s not an exaggeration! There are some women in these facilities that have no one visit them, can’t care for them, or take a shine to you because of how you treat them. I became “baby” more often than my name was said. I gave them this level of respect, because I never wanted my Nan to be in a place like that and someone mistreat her.
These women would see my swag low, listen to me. They would mentor me with their mistakes and remind me to keep going!
One woman, Cleo, (I’ll not say her last name here) took such liking to me she called me her granddaughter. This was a year after my own had passed away. I felt the same way around her as I did around my Nan. She’s ask me how my day was, my kids and my husband. And when she would hug me? I got strong again. At the last time I saw her, she was 94. I have. No idea if she’s still living.
The community keeps saying how we need to rebuild the village. Have everyone look out for each other again—-I agree. But there is a shortage of pillars! There’s a shortage of pillars! There is two-fold shortage: (1) women willing to give of themselves to the community that needs them and (2) a willingness for young women to hear what they have to say—or offer.
The Word of God says my people perish for the lack of knowledge. And there is definitely a lack of it, and also a lack of the desire for it. In that, with that, this is why I make myself available to the young women that ask me questions. I desire to be what my grandmother was to me.
Was she a complete map? No. Did she have her own issues? Sure did! But she was a light—grandmas are lights! The world needs more of that.
Don’t shun the older women that talk to you. Don’t ignore their warnings or readings about potential partners. Don’t dismiss their passion about the things in the world you need to be concerned about! Just because a woman is old doesn’t mean she’s useless. I get not everyone had the same experience with their grandmothers—it is naive to think otherwise! This is why the Ms. Cleos and Ms. Matties are needed! It’s not bad as a woman to want a soft place to fall, and fall apart! My grandmother was that secret place.
Womanhood is hard. And you need all the help you can get! Sometimes all you need is a somebody whom has been where you are, to tell it’ll get better. You need a light, it’ll help you see better.
[images from (1) Amazon, (2) Pinterest and Veterstock]