Nan is not her real name, but it's the name she goes by with our five kids. She's my husband's grandmother and one of our children's great-grandmothers.
Yesterday, she and Grandpa celebrated another anniversary in their long lives together. (Happy Belated Anniversary!) They continue to set an example together for younger married couples everywhere -- if they have endured all the things they've been through together, there's hope for all of us.
The reason I admire Nan is mostly based on what I learned about her, back in the days when I used to work for her. They owned a restaurant in Northern California and I was hired on as a hostess when I was 17. Later, I learned to take care of some of the office work -- doing a lot of ten-key data entry using Excel. Because of that job, I was able to move into bigger jobs with benefits and everything ... but that's where I made the cross over from food-related jobs to office jobs. I am so thankful for that opportunity.
Anyway, she was not always the easiest boss to work for. She set very high standards in cleanliness in the restaurant, as well as customer service. Being a teenager, it was easy to want to slack off sometimes, but she stayed on top of the whole host/bus staff, especially on the busiest nights when she worked the hostess stand and register alongside us. But she was always so sweet when I'd come to her house to do the office work, bringing me tea and cookies or cake in the middle of every afternoon.
She was born in England, so I think the tea and sweets in mid-afternoon was something very natural to her. We'd use the time to catch up a bit on things going on (by then I was married to her grandson, after all). Sometimes she'd give me advice and other times she'd just listen to my latest news. But amidst all those talks, I got to hear about her life -- before the restaurant -- and all the brave things she'd done.
She married young to a U.S. Air Force man, stationed in the U.K. at that time. A short time later, they had a child -- my future mother-in-law -- and with a new little girl on her hip, she followed her husband who was transferred to Guam, leaving her sisters and parents and everything she knew behind.
The stories of life in Guam alone are enough to make most women, these days, crumble. But this tough, lady Brit, pulled up her bootstraps and made the most of life there. The insects were enormous and plentiful. Their home's walls were mostly made of screens and it sat up high on stilts to avoid getting flooded. The living environment alone just makes me cringe to think about it. But then, to think about how lonely it must have been!
Her husband was away at work and here she was, a new mother, knowing no one in this strange land and being stationed so far from everyday amenities as well. It had to be so challenging at times. I would have wanted to give up and move home probably a hundred times and yet, she endured it all. She grew stronger.
Later, they moved to the U.S. mainland, and were stationed in a couple spots. Some places she liked more than others, but none of them were the home she'd grown up in and loved. None of them contained her extended family to provide support and advice for raising a young child when she needed it. Everyone was a stranger to her here.
And not to reveal too much about her age, but, this is in the days before Internet and cell phones, so staying connected actually took real effort. She must have written letters home quite often to ask about the news of the people she knew best and I wonder how often they replied.
When her husband left the military, they lived in California and he worked long hours at the hospital. She talked often about waking before the sun to get his clothes ironed, to make him breakfast and to get the house cleaned before her daughter woke. Then she spent the day at home with her child -- cooking, cleaning, taking her to and from the school. In all the time I've known her, her home has been meticulously cleaned and organized. Her standards seem a bit like an impossible dream to me, but somehow, she managed to maintain this level of perfection all of her adult life.
Finally, together, this couple bought a restaurant and ran it successfully for decades. In their small town, it was a fixture that fed farmers and prom-goers alike. There were plenty of regulars, but with its reputation, there were plenty of new guests anxious to try their Prime Rib or BBQ Beef Ribs, which were particular specialties served there. I have good memories of my short time working in their restaurant -- even though it required a lot of hard work! When finally, they decided to sell and retire, seeing the restaurant discontinue being a part of their lives daily, was like losing a member of the family.
Her ambition and willingness to follow her husband anywhere in the world and into any business venture is just so admirable to me. I think of all the times, C has discussed his dream of opening a bakery or restaurant and how I am reluctant to even discuss it. The idea terrifies me! But, I know what I should do -- I know I should be more supportive and dare to dream big with him. I've seen the blessings that have unfolded in the long, married lives of this couple and I can only think it had so much to do with her willingness to act selflessly and supportively to her husband.
That takes immense courage. I am so thankful for her example.