By Crystal Leo
July 23 of every year has been designated as “Gorgeous Grandmas Day.” In a world filled with way too many “National This” or “National That” days, this is one pseudo celebratory day that I am glad someone created. The reason why is simple: grandparents should be cherished. And on “Gorgeous Grandmas Day”, I cannot help but think of my two grandmothers and just how unbelievably wonderful they were. I will admit, however, that one grandmother in particular comes to mind at the mention of the word “gorgeous”. My Nana.
Nana doesn’t come to mind simply because she was a beautiful woman—but more or less because she was a beautiful, vibrant person inside and out. My grandmother was a personality that most people did not forget after they got to meet her. She just had that “air” to her. Wherever she went, people knew her by name and, often times, she was larger than life. At least to me that is. Perhaps my father remembers her in a different light, but I think that’s the beauty of a relationship between a grandchild and a grandmother.
Often, we get to see them differently than how our parents experienced them while they were growing up. Maybe it is because by the time they get to have grandchildren, grandparents have more practice or patience than they had with their own children, but whatever the reason, it creates a beautiful bond between two generations that many people remember fondly when they think back on their grandparents.
My Nana was born Viola Hurtz in New Jersey in 1928. She was born at the end of December, and as she got older, she hated how people would buy her one present for both Christmas and her birthday. She often told me she was always getting swindled that way.
When she was a little girl, her family moved to Stroudsburg, Pa. where she would go on to become a telephone operator. It was also where she would one day meet the dashing Air Force Lieutenant Lafayette Fetherman, who was a WWII veteran, and fall in love. They were married in 1952 or 1953, and from there, you could say my Nana’s epic adventure truly began.
As an Air Force Officer’s wife, she travelled all over Europe with three sons and somehow kept her sanity. Since I know exactly how much of a stinker my daddy can be, I have no idea how she accomplished this task. But she did. And not only did she do that, but she also kept home and hearth while my father flew planes in the Korean War.
The strong willed, amazing woman that my Nana was did not stop there though. She did many things during her life including working for the US Census. In 1986, my Papa died from a heart attack as a complication from his fight with cancer. Up until the day he died, my Nana was a smoker herself. Upon his death, she came home, threw her cigarettes out, and never touched one again. As much as she loved my papa, she did not let his loss stop her life.
Nana was a widow for 27 years, and in that time, she absolutely lived her life to the fullest. She travelled the world from Spain, Australia, New Zealand and all over the United States. There were cruises to the Bahamas and friends she got her hair and nails done with, but there was never another man in her life. As difficult as her life had been at times with my Papa, that was the only man she wanted, and she was content to live her life staying busy with her girlfriends.
Anytime I look back on my time growing up and visiting Nana in North Carolina, I think of the pictures she showed me of seeing the world. To this day, I have a bracelet she bought me in Spain. I cannot wear it, but I look at this bracelet and I feel my Nana’s love surround me in such a comfort that I cannot explain it to someone else.
I like to think Nana is who I inherited me adventurous streak from. She certainly brought to life my dreams of travelling the world one day. But, she also showed me, in her own way, how to be a strong woman. Nana did not take crap from anyone, ever, and if I live up to half the woman she was, I will consider myself successful in life.
My Nana followed our family to Kentucky when we moved here. Selling the house that she had built with my Papa in North Carolina so that she could be here, closer to some of her family. She passed away in Vine Grove in 2013, and honestly, there is not a day that goes by that I do not think of her. She loved me with her whole heart, and I am a better person for it.
Memories of my Nana will always be filled with trips to the beach, which was one of her favorite places in the world, and the bright lipsticks she loved to wear. The way we listened to Eric Clapton in her van and how she took me to my first rock concert… even if it is what I would consider soft rock. The many stories of her trips all over the world inspire me to travel myself one day, but mostly, my Nana’s vibrance and love live on through me, and I often find myself hoping that she would be proud of the person I have become.
Strong. Wild. Smart.
Beautiful inside and out.
Here is a huge THANK YOU to all of those gorgeous grandmas out there! Please know that the love you shower on your grandchildren does not go unnoticed or unremembered. Us grandchildren, we cherish you beyond measure. Promise.