About a month ago, I sat down with my nana and interviewed her. Nana describes herself as an ordinary person who’s not “lighting any fires”, yet her words hold profound beauty. Much of her advice sounds simple – compromise, respect a person even when you disagree with them – yet when acted upon, have the power to shape a life into one sincerely lived with love. Nana has been married to my granddaddy for 57 years this June.
What is the secret to staying married and in love for over 50 years?
Nana said, “You love differently at different times, but you love.” She explained we must make the commitment to each other even though we are not always loving or loveable. Circumstances in life may threaten to draw you apart, but you must continually make the choice to love.
As a young couple in the military, Nana and Granddaddy often met other young couples and socialized with them at parties and other events on base. At one of those events, one of the other husbands propositioned Nana to fool around with him. Nana was flattered, but did not even consider it. She told me if you make a commitment, you need to honor that commitment. She told me that it’s fine to be flattered, but don’t let it go to your head, and if you are ever enticed, just say no.
One of the sweetest sights in the world to me is my grandparents holding hands.
What tools have you used to work through the hard times in life?
Nana told how Granddaddy and she had supported each other through disappointments and sad times. When her father died, it was very traumatic for her, but Granddaddy was “steady as a rock” and his stability helped her through her pain.
Beyond supporting each other, she said that the support of family, friends and prayer was crucial in difficult times. Nana remains positive through her belief that when hard times come, they will be better tomorrow.
The author and her grandmother
When a disagreement arises between you and someone you love, what is a good way to disagree productively?
Nana said instead of fighting it out, sometimes we need to step back and take time to think. That way when we resume the disagreement, we’ll be able to really listen to what the other person has to say instead of just battling to advance our own opinion. Nana said it’s okay to still disagree, but if we’ve truly heard one another, we can do so without anger.
What is your advice for keeping and maintaining valuable friendships?
Granddaddy and Nana often travel with another couple whom they met when they were all newlyweds. They disagree on politics with these friends, and Nana said they’re remained close for so long because they’ve learned not to try to impose their own ideas on each other. Nana said it’s important to compromise. That does not mean just giving in. Instead, sometimes you must realize you will not change each other, but continue to respect each other all the same.
What do you wish you had known about life in your 20’s and 30’s?
Nana explained that there were certain expectations in the 1950’s of what a wife should be, and she allowed those paradigms to define her way of life. However, she had a good friend who didn’t worry as much about expectations, and could often be found playing with her children rather than cleaning her house. Nana told me to relax and be more spontaneous, rather than trying to be perfect.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of in your life?
Nana said her greatest accomplishment is her two daughters, who have both turned into fine women. (One of those women in my amazing mom!) Another accomplishment was getting into hotel school at Cornell University, a field that was considered a man’s profession. Out of 100 students in her program, 12 were women!
The author’s grandmother at 21 years old
How do you view the concept of beauty? What do you wish younger women knew about beauty?
For Nana, beauty is about attitude, and we can have a beautiful attitude simply by looking beyond ourselves. She said it’s fun to dress up, and fine to want to look nice, but that beauty is not all there is to life, and it should not become an obsession. She said it sounds trite, but beauty is mostly on the inside.
How did you view fashion in your 20’s and 30’s? How do you view fashion now?
One of her lifelong friends taught her to sew, and they designed clothes together. When dresses got shorter, instead of buying new ones, Nana hemmed up several of her own dresses. She even made some evening gowns for New Year’s Eve! Later, as her daughters were growing up, she put her skills to work making doll clothes. Nana said that instead of focusing on trends now, she looks for comfort.
What did you like to do for fun in your 20’s and 30’s?
For fun, Nana and Granddaddy attended Air Force parties, went to the movies, played bridge, and laughed. They also belonged to a gourmet dinner club, and experimented with fancy dishes on the other couples in the club.
Over New Year’s, our family went on a cruise to celebrate my Granddaddy’s 80th birthday. We cousins range from 21 to 26, and one evening in the hot tub, we talked about how much we love our family. Our grandparents have set an example of love that truly inspires us. It is such a privilege to have my nana in my life, and I am so grateful for her love freely given to those around her.
Editor’s Note: When Lacy approached me with the idea of interviewing her grandmother I was instantly on board. Lydia is named after my own ‘abuela’ and the spirit of what we do here has always come from a place of learning from the amazing women around us. So, using Lacy’s original interview as a jumping off point, we will be posting one interview from various Lydia contributors and their own grandmothers every week this March, in a celebration of Women’s History Month. Like all of these women, every interview will be different, every matriarch imparting different words of wisdom. I am so excited to hear little pieces of these amazing stories and I hope you will be too. -KJ
Lacy Cooke has been writing since she was 8 years old. Although she would move to Middle Earth and live in the Shire if possible, her favorite Earth place is Lake Tahoe. She is a California native recently transplanted to Connecticut. In California, she earned her degree in English from Westmont College, and fell in love with John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway in the process, as well as her husband. Lacy loves her amazingly supportive family, cats, chocolate, Game of Thrones, dill pickles, and Jane Bennet, in that order. Her experiments in life can be found at Sputnik Prose.