The name of the woman I’m featuring this week, Patricia Meyers, will probably sound completely unfamiliar to all of you. That’s because she is my paternal grandmother.
It probably seems like a stretch for me to feature my own grandmother in one of my posts. But for the last 3 days, I’ve been awaiting a phone call from my parents telling me to head up to Philadelphia for her funeral. As I type this, she’s on her death bed. So I felt like the best way for me to express both my grief and my admiration for her was to feature her in this week’s post.
My grandmother (Gram Patsy) was truly a remarkable woman. She was the daughter of two Irish immigrants, and her mother died when she was young. She had a very rocky relationship with her stepmother and stepsiblings, but retained a very close bond with her brother Jack.
Eventually, she married my grandfather, William Meyers. They had nine children, and my father is the 2nd oldest.They lived in a suburb of Philadelphia in a nice, middle-class neighborhood. Things were great for awhile, but when my dad was 16, my grandfather abandoned the family and got a new one.
So Gram Patsy was left to raise 9 children on her own. Most single mothers struggle with just 1 kid, let alone 9. So Gram Patsy got a job as a paralegal. Between her income, food stamps, and help from the state, she managed to keep the family going. She almost lost their house, but after some help from her father managed to eventually pay off the mortage, and the house was hers.
Now, according to people like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, my grandmother surely raised 9 delinquents. Because, according to them single mothers are to blame for crime. Well, I hate to break it to you, conservatives, but my grandmother managed to bring up 9 well-adjusted, successful children. They’ve all taken their own paths in life, and not all of their successes can be measured in wealth, but they’re all happy.
So what does this have to do with feminism exactly? Well, I guess that’s where I come in. I have always had a deep admiration for Gram Patsy. She wasn’t the kind of grandmother who would spoil you with gifts (I distinctly remember one occasion where she got very angry with me for sassing my parents). Hers was definitely a tough love. But my cousins and I absolutely adored her. She would tell us the best stories about our parents and all of the crazy hijinks they got into growing up.
I also learned a lot about my Irish heritage from her. I got my first claddagh ring from Gram Patsy, and when my great-grandfather died she gave me his wool cap that he had brought with him when he immigrated. I blame her for my interest in history and culture because she made me feel like it was so important to know where your family came from.
Aside from all of those wonderful qualities, Gram Patsy was what most people would refer to as a “bitch.” She was strong, opinionated, and very outspoken. If she thought something, you heard it. Maybe it comes from having to raise so many kids alone and working her butt off at the same time, but she took shit from no one. I like to think that rubbed off on me. She taught me to stick up for the things I believed in, and to always fight for what’s right.
She may not have identified as a feminist, but Gram Patsy definitely gave me the courage and conviction to follow my beliefs and apply them to my every day life. Even though she has Alzheimer’s now, and doesn’t know who I am, I think she’d be incredibly proud of the strong-willed woman I grew up to be.