Lessons from Grandma

Author reflects on the relationship that taught her to be a strong woman in business

This past week, I was by grandma’s side as she took her last breath. Cancer tried to steal her away more than three years ago, but true to her nature, she stubbornly fought its grip to make it to her 70th birthday and my wedding day. She never let anyone or anything stand in her way—even a terminal illness.

The last few days have brought with them a lot of reflection. The most profound memories I have of her are actually those spent within the four walls of a business. My grandma worked as a legal secretary and there were periods of time in my childhood when I would walk to her office after school, spending a few hours in a back room surrounded by law books and filing cabinets until she would drive me home for dinner. I would do my homework while she drafted legal motions.

Once I reached high school, I worked alongside her, filing paperwork and answering phones. My grandma thought it would be good for me to make some money for college and get job experience. I don’t think either of us realized all that working together really taught me.

From my grandma I learned that it doesn’t matter whose name is on the door—you take ownership of your work as if you run the business. My grandma never saw herself as just an employee and neither did anyone who stepped through that office. When my grandma was away, chaos ensued. It was undeniable that she was more integral to that business than anyone with a law degree.

From my grandma I learned not to just work a job, but to live out a passion. She invested into the lives of her clients, sending birthday presents to some and giving stern, unsolicited motherly advice to others. The day before she passed away, I watched as a longtime client stood at her bedside, saying goodbye to a woman who tirelessly fought on his behalf. Living her career with dedication inspired others to be dedicated to her.

From my grandma I learned that it isn’t enough to just live and work in a community—you must be engaged with it. Between Rotary, the Emblem Club, and the Del Norte County Grand Jury, my grandma always found a way to serve others and better her community. That’s one piece of her that shines bright in my life, evidenced by my busy schedule of board and commission meetings.

Perhaps I could have learned some other wisdom from my grandma by cooking alongside her, or weeding with her in her rose garden. But I’m not sure those lessons would have led me be the strong woman in business I am today. A business gave me the opportunity to learn some of my greatest life lessons from my grandmother, and my workplace and community are better for it. I know that one of her strongest legacies is me— an independent, dedicated, passionate businesswoman who lives and works just as she did.