My paternal grandmother was one for the books. A great raconteur, she came from a time and place where women were at the back of the pack no matter how hard they tried. Still she dreamed and dreamed big, if not for herself than for her children, grandchildren and their children.
She was a widow who supported her two kids by working the graveyard shift as a night auditor in one of the big Manhattan hotels starting in the late 1940’s. Her idea was to be home to get her children off to school in the morning and to be home when they came home from school in the afternoon, “like a normal family,” she’d say. In many ways Grandma was luckier than most women in her situation because her Aunt also lived with them and willingly took on the burden of watching the kids at night.
One story Grandma always told was how her boss came to say that only the men were going to get raises that year because they had to support their families. “What was I doing there, taking in the waters?” she’d say of the injustice. “I’d a mind to quit, but what was I going to do then?”
She did eventually quit that job and worked her way up through the chain at a lot of different high-end hotels. Still, she worked that graveyard shift for more than twenty years, only switching to days towards the end of her life when she was quite ill. By then it was the early 1970’s and with feminism on her mind she’d say, “it’s a good time to be alive.”
I bring this all up because while she never set foot in a gym, she had a boxer’s heart. She worked hard; fought for her family, and always jumped back up no matter how many times life knocked her down. And while she may not have built the bridges she always dreamed of, I cannot think of a better legacy than ceding us her great spirit, her humor and her willingness to literally walk the extra mile if it meant bettering her family.