My favorite lady, arguably one of the coolest chicks ever, was my Grandma Barbara. She was cool because she lived and died by her own rules in an era when there were lots of special rules for women. She didn’t have a name for how she lived. She didn’t identify herself or align with a particular hobby, lifestyle, or religion. But she knew who she was and what she was doing. We called her Grandma B, which I later shortened to GB (she loved this by the way…you’ll understand why as you read on).
She had style. Grandma B was a red head. She was long and lean with tanned, shiny, thin skin, and a million dollar smile. She wore glasses and bright red lipstick, carried huge handbags (changing them out daily to match outfits), cut her t-shirts into a deep V in the front, and always jingle jangled with at least 10 bangles on her arm. She drove a VW bug for years with only one seat in it: the driver’s seat. From a little kid’s perspective, she was the shit. Adults might have called her flashy, but they knew she was a badass.
She didn’t mess around. When she traveled, she brought 5 suitcases, even if only going overnight. If she was pissed or calling for attention, she could do that finger whistle trick that only certain people can do. It was deafening! She said “fuck” at appropriate times. When she called, she didn’t announce herself, and immediately launched into why she was calling. No need for formalities! If she didn’t like you, you’d know it; it was highly likely due to you being a prick to a child, a female, or her. If she liked you, she admired you.
She loved to laugh and make you laugh. Story after story, Grandma B lived to entertain. One of her favorite things was finding raunchy, funny birthday cards for friends, relatives, and people around town. Shocking people seriously busted her up. If you didn’t have a sense of humor, you didn’t have a chance with her.
She was gritty. Hard work and tough people didn’t scare her. To name a few of her jobs, she worked in a medical office, ran a newspaper business, tended bar in a cowtown tavern, and managed a campground. She organized an annual parade in her hometown, reveling in her moments as queen of the day. But she could bust the chops of the roughest, filthiest cowboys. Nobody fucked with her. On the rare occasion that they did, she’d be sure to abbreviate his or her name to initials: AH, DH, LD…there were a few. I’m happy to tell you what they stand for if you really want to know.
She was compassionate. Grandma B wasn’t racist. In fact, she pitied racists. She was a feminist, and she was for anybody that needed somebody to “be” for them. She didn’t have much; she didn’t need much. Somehow, she found ways to give to others. Give time, give money, give support.
She understood choices. She cared passionately about a Woman’s Right to Choose. She also made difficult choices when she needed to. She said goodbye to relationships that weren’t working (6 marriages, yikes!). She quit smoking (claims she never inhaled anyway!). Ultimately, GB owned her choices and pretty much expected everybody else to do the same.
She was a fighter. After she was gone, it dawned on me how fiercely she battled own mental health issues, and without many resources. Depression, anxiety, childhood trauma, abuse, addiction…all of them. One of her greatest weapons for fighting demons was wrapping herself in positivity. Her little vintage Gulf Stream trailer, her home for the last several years of her life, was filled with visual reminders; affirmations, notes, framed poems, thoughtful cards, and anything with a message of positivity or what this era associates with mindfulness. She chose clothes and accessories that made her feel good. And, she surrounded herself with people who liked to laugh.
She is one of my greatest inspirations in everything I’m working for. She is a huge part of my soul and my style. She called me “luv” and I miss that. She gave me the gift of grit and taught me the power of planting seeds (figuratively speaking). Through her lifestyle and actions, she taught me to try letting go of what I can’t change or control, and that hard work and tough choices can lead to lighter days with more laughs.
GB would have loved happiesbetter. She would have embraced the purpose. She also would have understood why I carried it around for many years before knowing that it needed to be shared. She’d have worn 5 bracelets at a time, plus a hat. And I have no doubt she would have cut a mantra tee into a nice deep v-neck.