My dad and I were talking the other night about my grandmother who passed away last year at 103 years old. He said that he and my aunts had been discussing her secret to a long happy life a lot lately. He said there were three crucial things they'd realized about the way my grandmother lived:
1. She found joy in the little things. Walks, drinking tea, chatting with a stranger at the supermarket, chatting with anyone for that matter (she was very social).
2. She always tried to bring harmony into any situation. If you ever talked badly to her about someone or had a fight, she would immediately explain why so and so must be understood and the hard time they were going through. In other words, she always strove to see it from the other person's perspective.
3. She never tried to compete with men.
See, number three is where I think my dad is mistaken. The truth is, my grandmother never tried to compete with men because she felt they were actually the weaker sex and that because of this, as women, should treat them very delicately. I know this because whenever any of the men in our family acted out (especially my mean grandfather) she would look at me with such pity in her eyes and say "pobrecito" (poor thing). She really felt sorry for them. She felt the male ego was very fragile and so out of her sense of kindness never, ever tried to challenge it.
As for us girls, she expected nothing but strong, upright behavior. She accepted no nonsense from us-ever.
I do think number three was dad's subtle way of sending me a message. I have always been willful, argumentative, and competitive with men (including him) whenever I felt challenged. But, don't get me wrong. It's because unlike my grandmother, I see men as my equals. I believe in men. I think they are strong and capable in a way my grandma never did. She never gave my grandfather any shit (even when he really deserved it), but how sad that is to me, because it only meant she never really believed in his ability to change or grow.
Make no mistake, I still think my grandmother was an amazing and strong woman, but I'd also like to think she brought forth a new generation of women in our family. The fighters, the believers...and me.