As Thanksgiving draws closer, I am even more than normally aware of those things for which I am grateful. One of them was, and still is, my grandmother. Grandma had a third grade education which allowed her limited reading and writing skills. Today we’d call her semi-literate or functionally illiterate due to the limitations. She was one of the people responsible for my love of learning, of reading and writing. She was also one of my greatest teachers.
Mom finally moved all of us out of the poor part of the city and out to the country. For me this was great, but with Mom working full time Grandma had to walk to work in whatever weather Pennsylvania threw her way. The restaurant where she worked as a dishwasher for ten plus hours every evening was two miles from her home. She walked both to and from her job.
My grandmother wasn’t a saint, though. One time her boss Big Gary, the owner of the restaurant where she worked, came into the kitchen on a real tear. He’d lost quite a sum of money at a poker game in the backroom. His son Little Gary, the cook, got a verbal blast first, then the waitresses who were gathering up the plates to serve were cursed. He swung his angry red face toward Grandma.
At the time, Grandma was in her late sixties while Big Gary wasn’t far on the down side of forty. When the first words out of his mouth were abusive, Grandma turned to the sink, picked up an iron skillet–big iron skillet–and brandished it as she walked with slow intent toward her boss. In a calm voice she said, “You will not speak to me in such a manner. You will leave this kitchen right now.”
Big Gary paled a bit, but tried to bluff. “You wouldn’t dare hit me.”
Grandma walked another step toward him. “I never threaten.”
Whatever he saw in Grandma’s black-brown eyes caused him to whirl around and hurry from the kitchen. Not one person moved during this entire exchange. When he disappeared through the swinging doors, they turned and stared at Grandma, waiting. Perhaps, they thought she’d break down in tears of remorse, or fear for her job.
Grandma quietly removed the apron from around her waist. “Little Gary, please inform your father that I quit.” She picked up her coat and purse and left.
She was about a half mile down the dark, rural road when Little Gary idled up next to her. “Please, let me take you home.”
She bent down and leaned on the sill of the open window. “You don’t need to do that.”
“Please, Dad said to take you home. And… and I’d like to.”
She pursed her lips and gave a brusque downward jerk of her chin and climbed into the car.
The next day, Big Gary sent a dozen red roses and a card with an apology. “Please, come back to work.”
Grandma tossed the card in the trash, but saw no reason not to enjoy the roses.
The following day, Big Gary’s wife arrived in the afternoon with a box of expensive chocolates and more roses–yellow this time. Grandma invited her in for coffee and they chatted, mostly about interior decorating–one of Grandma’s passions. Big Gary’s wife loved Grandma’s ideas and asked her, “When all this hoopla is over, may I send a car and have you brought to my home? I’d like to hire you for a consultation.”
Grandma said, “There is no hoopla. I quit. I will not be spoken to or treated in such a manner. And, yes, we can arrange a time for me to look at your home.”
“I want to apologize for what happened…” Big Gary’s wife started to say.
Grandma interrupted, “You have no reason to apologize. You have done nothing wrong. It is your husband who wronged me.”
The following day, Big Gary arrived. Box of chocolates, another dozen roses–pink– and a bonus check in an envelope. He apologized and arranged for his son to pick up my grandmother for work and to bring her home at night.
And, so until Grandma retired from the restaurant, she had a ride to and from work and Big Gary had learned a valuable lesson. He never arrived in the kitchen when Grandma was present to yell at anyone.
One of the things I am most grateful for are the lessons–such as the ones I learned from this incident–that Grandma taught me. She never preached at me; it was the way she lived that taught the lessons.
What are you grateful for? Please, share!
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