Grandmothers are the Super Glue that holds families together. They remind children and grandchildren to call their parents. With a sideways glance, they can quietly shame everyone into attending family events they might otherwise try to duck out of. They also are a driving force in making us be better people than we think we can be. Many even give up the well-earned serenity of their golden years to raise grandchildren, opening their hearts and homes to youngsters at crucial times.

Grandmothers are the Super Glue that holds families together.

They remind children and grandchildren to call their parents. With a sideways glance, they can quietly shame everyone into attending family events they might otherwise try to duck out of. They also are a driving force in making us be better people than we think we can be. Many even give up the well-earned serenity of their golden years to raise grandchildren, opening their hearts and homes to youngsters at crucial times.

Grandmothers expect nothing less than our best effort. We may not always finish first, be the fastest, smartest or the strongest, but they are never disappointed in us as long as we give our best effort.

My two grandmothers were polar opposites who lived on opposite sides of the country. Grandma Schmidt was a strong, feisty German and Grandma Gray a petite, soft-spoken Dane. Living closer to Grandma Schmidt allowed me the opportunity to learn about life through her eyes. The most important lesson I learned from her is that life is not fair, but it’s no excuse to be a slacker.

Grandma Schmidt and her siblings were orphaned at a young age. Her stories of time in an orphanage border on cruelty by today’s standards, and she hated the smell of oranges until the day she died. She said all the orphans were routinely given medicine with a pungent orange flavoring.

Little by little, life improved for grandma, but like most of us, it had its ups and downs. When she received a fuzzy new puppy as a gift, a neighbor quickly reported her to authorities because it cried in the night. The dog catcher asked for the puppy’s papers, which she didn’t have. Since grandma also didn’t have the fee to get its rabies vaccination, they shot the puppy on her doorstep.

Eventually, through hard work, frugality and family, grandma and her siblings improved their lot in life. All married and started families of their own.

Tales to tell

I imagine most families have stories they tell year after year that create waves of laughter in a room. We told this story because it somewhat embarrassed my grandma, and she would have been arrested if she did this same thing today.

It seems her youngest child, Jack, was throwing heavy metal trucks at the middle child, Linda. Over and over again he would pelt her with a variety of trucks and toys. After several warnings, grandma had reached her limit. She grabbed a jump rope and tied little Jack to a chair and threw toys at him – wood blocks and anything else she could reach.

“There, how do you like it?” she asked as she continued this torture.

Now, I’m sure she didn’t throw them overhand or pick toys that would cause physical damage, but she had obviously lost control of the situation and her composure.

“It worked,” she would say. “He never threw toys at her again.”

We would all laugh because it’s our family dysfunction. Everyone lived, adjusted and didn’t grow up to be abusive to their own kids. Grandma also knew how to take a joke and how to pull one off. Every April 1, she would fill the sugar bowl with salt before breakfast. She also would sew the holes shut on the arms and legs of her kids’ pajamas.

In addition to teaching us to savor all life has to offer, grandmas also offer insight into death. They hold our hands at funerals, comfort those grieving in our family and know what to say right when we need to hear it. Grandmas also teach us to rejoice at the miracle of birth, and impress the importance of offering unconditional love within the family.

Take a few minutes today to remember the lessons and values your grandparents offered, and be sure to honor their legacy by passing those on to future generations.

Lori Kilchermann is the assistant managing editor of The Journal-Standard in Freeport, Ill. She may be reached at lkilchermann@journalstandard.com. This column is the opinion of the writer and not of the newspaper.