This post by Gayle M. Irwin
Today is April Fools’ Day, also known as All Fools’ Day, a time for playing pranks and practical jokes. Although it’s origin is unknown, according to the folks at Discovery News, various cultures have celebrated such antics for centuries, including the ancient Roman festival known as Hilaria.
My family and I aren’t much for practical jokes and pranks. Although I’m sure as a young child I attempted to play jokes on folks, I don’t remember doing so very often just because my parents didn’t care for such things – and since people can be really mean-spirited, we just never got into that type of behavior.
April 1, however, is very special to me because it was my maternal grandmother’s birthday. She was an amazing woman – no fool and no April fool. She was wise, generous, loving, and very strong of faith. Her parents hailed from Germany and Switzerland, settling in Iowa to operate a store and raise six children. My grandmother learned and practiced work ethic at a young age, and she and her first husband operated the store for many years. After re-marrying several years later, she and my grandfather had a small farm outside of Burlington, Iowa where they grew crops and raised sheep. My mother was born when Grandma Mardy was nearly 40 years old, and she was raised on that farm. No electricity even during the 1950s and she remembers Grandma not only helping Grandpa on the farm, but also cooking, baking, cleaning, and raising my mom. My mother was their only child and I was the only grandchild. My grandmother was one of my biggest fans, you could say – she helped me make it to college (I’m the first person on either side of the family to receive a college degree) by setting up a small fund to which she contributed during those first 18 years of my life.
Even before college, Grandma Mardy was my friend and cheerleader. I talked to her about my first love, or what I thought was my first love, and she wisely counseled me about relationships when I was 19 years old. She took her first plane ride at age 80, coming out to my high school graduation (my parents and I had moved from Iowa to Wyoming my final year of high school). She made two other plane flights out west before she passed away at age 91. Her mind stayed fairly strong through her aging. I think she kept herself sharp through reading and remembering – she shared stories with me as I aged, too, and she was able to remember many of the German words she grew up on. Her faith sustained her, and blessedly, she was able to live in her home until her dying day. I write about my precious, caring Grandma in “All About the Girls,” edited by our own Cher’ley Grogg. And on this day, just like every April Fools’Day, I think about her. Happy Birthday, Grandma Mardy — I’ll always love you and be grateful to you!
I have a story in that same anthology about my mom. I am blessed to still be able to spend time with her. She is now 77 years old. I will be seeing her and my dad this week — he turns 80 in a few months. Now that my parents are the age of my grandmother, in essence, I all the more treasure the time I am able to have with them.
I had a birthday just last week (Grandma Mardy’s birthday was just a week after mine). I am now more than a half-century old (where did that high school/college girl go??!); I hope as I enter this latter stage of life with the dignity and strength exhibited by both my grandma and my mom. Neither ladies were/are old fools or April Fools – wise, calm, respectful, devoted women, they were/are – I would do well to walk in their footsteps.
Gayle M. Irwin writes inspirational dog books for children and adults and contributes short stories in five Chicken Soup for the Soul books — her sixth such work, about America’s national parks, will appear in this year’s Chicken Soup patriotic collection The Spirit of America, to be released June 2016 . She enjoys sharing what people can learn from pets and nature. A former humane and conservation educator, Gayle once lived next door to Yellowstone National Park. She continues to enjoy America’s natural splendors, traveling as often as she can from her home in Wyoming. Gayle volunteers for various animal rescue organizations, to which she donates part of her book sale revenues, and she speaks in schools, at libraries, and for various faith-based and civic groups. Learn more at her website: www.gaylemirwin.com.