She was as she would have put it a "Bible believing Christian". And she worked very hard to impart to me certain ideas about the way the world worked.
I got ideas alright. They came through loud and clear. They just weren't the ideas she had intended. They were important messages though and they have played a huge part in shaping the kind of person I am today.
My father was an only child therefore his parents were always a much bigger part of his life, than my mother's parents. This was due not only to a different way of looking at the parent child relationship but also I think due to the fact that My mother was the youngest of five children. As a consequence I was very close to my father's parents in part because I saw them, well pretty much all the time.
His mother, the woman who's face comes to mind when I think on the word "Grandmother", was in many ways more of a mother to me growing up than my own biological mother. My mom to put it simply was a woman for whom the maternal instinct if it ran at all, ran thin. With the benefit of maturity and hindsight I don't fault her the way I did when I was younger. Even today when remaining childless is seen as a much more valid choice than it was several decades ago, society often seems to go out of it's way to make people, women especially feel as if they are damaged freaks for daring to not want kids. In fact I'd submit that many people are so thoroughly programmed to believe that wanting kids is what they are supposed to do, that it honestly never occurs to them that they have any say in the matter.
Ultimately I did not really bond with my mother. But I did bond with my grandmother.
Over the course of our time together she did her best to instruct me to view the world a certain way. At first when I was younger it seemed like I was marching right down the path she had guided me on. Over time however I began to question and doubt. In the end I chose ways of being that were very different from what she believed was proper. And yet to this day I believe that I have stayed true to the spirit of what she taught me.
A Personal Relationship With...
I was raised a "Fundamentalist" Christian. Now the quotes around that word are for a very important reason. My grandmother was a fundamentalist in the truest original sense of the word. She believed The Bible to be the inerrant, eternal, and literal word of God. This woman had no hate in her heart for any one. Yet she believed in the doctrine of eternal salvation through Christ, and eternal damnation through rejection of Christ. She also believed that in Heaven the streets were Literally paved with gold. As I grew older and began to question and doubt that was one of the earliest sign posts that maybe just maybe that book she put so much stock in wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
However there was something profound about her faith. This was a woman who had a deep and personal relationship with God and His son Jesus Christ. I've long since left Christianity. But my desire to have a deep spiritual relationship like hers never left me. My seeking however brought me to what is broadly termed "Paganism". Personally I don't "worship" any thing, and I don't really deal with the more classic God forms. I have however had interaction with beings of great love and peace, and I hold all of reality in great esteem. (I refer to it as The Is and The All) While my spirituality is very different from the one she raised me with, it is nevertheless a deep and sincere spirituality and in that way she is an influence on me in that regard to this day.
How Would You Feel if...?
I am a completely committed believer in, and advocate for marriage equality. I believe that gay people, trans people, etc. are no different in any way that is meaningful from Cis gendered heterosexuals. In the course of my life I've come to terms with the fact that I am mildly bi-sexual. (My primary preference is for women, but a guy with the right personality under the right circumstances would not be off the table) But even if I was the most Cis gendered hetero out there I would still support full equality for all. Thanks to my grandmother.
Now full disclosure, my grandmother believed that the Bible taught that homosexuality was a sin. She herself was a "hate the sin love the sinner". But it wasn't those beliefs that informed my views.
Now it was the question that she would ask me any time I had done something hurtful to someone else.
She would sit me down and explain why what I had done was wrong, whether it was lying, or hitting my little brother. Invariably at some point in the conversation she would look at me and ask The Question. The details were always different but to generalize it the question boiled down to, "Now Royboy, how would you feel if that was done to you?"
The answer was almost always that I'd feel pretty darned lousy. Over time the question has stuck in my head.
So I look at situations like a gay couple together for years, and one of them dying and the other one not being allowed to be by his side at the end and all I have to do is ask myself how I would feel if that were me. The tears streaming down my face at the mere thought are all the answer I need. If I wouldn't want it to happen to me, then how in the hell could I stand by and permit it to happen to anyone else?
My grandmother was a believer. But she was not blind in her belief. Rather she believed that we were supposed to ask questions and to seek answers. This is an attitude she instilled in me from the time I was old enough to ask questions. I found different answers from hers, and sadly as I grew older before we drifted apart the answers I was finding disturbed her. As wonderful as she could be, she was still in a great many ways a limited person. But I am still grateful to her for teaching me to think and question, and not simply take things blindly at face value. It's thanks to that, that by not taking things at face value I learned on of the greatest lessons from her.
... As I Say, Not As I Do.
My grandmother sincerely believed that a wife was to be in submission to her husband. There was just one teeny tiny problem with that. My grandfather was, well let's just say he was the "If it ain't broke don't fuck with it, and by the way why the hell did you have to tell me it's broke for?" type. He was a simple man who didn't bother others and really didn't want to be bothered. My grandmother was the outgoing one, and the reformer, and the civic minded one. As a result I learned by watching her that a woman can be every bit as smart and capable as a man. Every bit as strong and determined. Every bit as worthy of respect.
And if that were true of my grandmother, well it didn't take much thinking to realize that it must be true of women in general. Plus, gosh Royboy how would you feel if you were treated as less than a person just because of your gender? Pretty bad Gramma, pretty bad.
I'm grateful to this day for everything my grandmother taught me, even if what she taught me wasn't exactly what she thought she was teaching me.
Keep The Faith My Brothers And Sisters!