Try Harder

On May 29, 2008, in Uncategorized, by Meghan

At the age of 30, my Grandma was already married and had birthed 4 sons. The youngest of these 4 boys was my dad. The family owned a small farm, and lived by its modest profits. My Grandma’s husband worked hard in the fields, while my Grandma worked hard in the home. Tragically, my Grandma’s husband died, leaving my Grandma alone with her nascent but already robust family. In situations like this, it was common for such families to be divided among other relatives who were able to support another person in their household.

Against common behavior and the suggestions of her extended relatives, my Grandma refused to break up her family. Instead, my Grandma took to the fields herself. It was the late 1940’s and early 1950’s in rural Illinois, and it was shocking to see a woman farming. Not only did she farm during the day, but she also performed the mandatory household chores by night. As her 4 boys grew up, she employed them in various tasks around the farm. By all accounts, the family just barely squeaked by, but not without everyone’s incessant hard work.

Remarkably, my Grandma met a young, local farmer who fell in love with her and her 4 sons. He and my Grandma were shortly married, creating a ready-made family. They added 1 daughter to the mix of boys, and carried on with their farming ways. While my Grandma’s first husband is my blood relative, I called my Grandma’s second husband my Grandpa, simply because this was who he was. My Grandma and Grandpa were married for over 50 years before my Grandpa passed away in 2004. My Grandma lived on for 4 more years before she died last week.

The notion of hard work clearly laced its way through every corner of my Grandma’s existence. Fittingly, this notion also wound through the celebration of my Grandma’s life this week. I’m challenged to tangibly comprehend the volume of hard work that was mandated by my Grandma’s life situation; I just know that her efforts were unending. I also understand that, in an evolved context, this ethic is applicable to our modern lives. I think my Grandma would say something like, “Always try hard. And, then, try even harder.” While mine is thankfully not a situation of simple survival, my life can still be one of hard work.

* * *

Alright, I’m back from my Grandma’s funeral in Illinois. As I flew out of Chicago yesterday afternoon, it hit me that I would be back in only 8 days for the Kettle Moraine 100k. Last Saturday, I managed to squeeze in my last long run before I headed to the Midwest. Not only is the story of this long run a tale of trying hard, but it’s also hilarious. I’ll write about it in my next blog entry.


18 Responses to “Try Harder”

  1. olga says:

    What a to live by, one to think of when so many of us in modern world all we do is to complain and whine and talk “suffering”. The answer always is – just plow on ahead, head down, and enjoy little things.
    Thanks for sharing, Meghan. It’s a wonderful memory you cherish forever.

  2. Beth says:

    What an amazing woman! Seems to run in the family ‘eh? 🙂

  3. Alison says:

    What a nice tribute to your grandma; it sounds like she led an amazing live and was a great role model. I’m really sorry for your loss.

  4. Alison, corrected says:

    Sorry…that should say “life,” not live. I’ll look forward to your next entry!

  5. Thomas says:

    Meghan, I really don’t go for heart-warming stories, or the good old times, but your Grandma’s story seems to have touched a nerve of mine. I find it really touching how her grit and determination shone through in your words, how she must have worked incredibly hard to keep her family together.

    I wish I could have met the old lady. She’s an inspiration. Like Olga said, thanks for sharing.

  6. Audrey says:

    hi. eloquently description of a full life. welcome home.

  7. mtnrunR says:

    sorry to hear of your grandmother passing. great story. have fun at kettle.

  8. Bob Gentile says:

    So awesome how she kept the family together and also the farm, that is one tough Momma … “the harder you work the luckier you get” and for her to then find someone who loved her & the four boys and for them to be together for 50 years is so great & yes a bit lucky!!

    Welcome back home & see ya in soon!

  9. Backofpack says:

    Your Grandmother sounds like a wonderful woman. I can’t help but admire her work ethic, family ethic and her ability to stay married for 50 years. Wow.

    The women of our Grandmother’s generation were amazing. My Grandma by marriage (my Grandpa’s third wife, and my Grandma for my whole life) was the first woman pharmacist in Oregon, and although she was married to my Grandpa, supported her first husband, who was institutionalized, until he died. She also kept her maiden name in a time when that was unheard of. I think of her often, and am inspired by her. I think I’ll be adding your Grandma’s story to those thoughts of inspiration.

  10. JeffO says:

    Thanks for sharing her story – and looking forward to more about your trip. You truly have a family rich in virtue and wisdom.
    I have virtually no “family”, even though everyone is still alive. Religion and viociousness have divided and conquered. I tried in my early 20’s to adress that which divides us, but there was too much mutual pain and my father cornered me and told me to cease-and-desist forever. There can be no healing. Not even “time” can heal these wounds.
    You are very lucky, but its not all luck. Each of you are responsible for perpetuating the richness of your family. You have big hearts.
    Forgive me if I feed off the glow!

  11. Journey to a Centum says:

    Did he fall in love with her or did she just have a nice tractor? I’m certain it was love considering the 50 years of marriage.

    You your father and his siblings were so lucky that your Grandma held such strong work ethic and family values. She was a survivor for all the right reasons!

    You will rock at Kettle! Get as much sleep as possible before the event! I’m sure your battery is a bit low after all you have gone through over the last week or so. Start out easy and finish strong my friend.

  12. Jennifer Harrison says:

    Wow, what a great story about your g-ma! It brought back memories of my g-parents who also farmed in rural Illinois (I live in the suburbs of Chicago now). Sorry to hear about your loss. I found your blog linked to Beth’s! Jen H.

  13. Sunshine Girl says:

    My Grandma had a similar story. She arrived in this country from Russia to the prairies, with a husband and two children. Not even 4 months later, she lost her husband in a farm accident and was a widow in a small town in rural Saskatchewan. As it happens under such circumstances, she met a local gentleman and was married again within a few months. She had two more children, one of which was my dad. My memories of her are: tough, tough and tough. Work hard, don’t complain, soldier on. It really was a theme with the women of that era.

    Tough, tough and tough.

  14. Meghan says:

    Have a great weekend, all! Thanks for all of your support. It means a lot to me!

    Olga- Thanks for reading, Olga. I agree that there is much for us to learn from people like my Grandma.

    Beth- You’re too nice! She was a tough, amazing woman, you’re right.

    Alison- Thanks for the nice comment and thoughts.

    Thomas- A really nice thing to say, Thomas, thanks so much!

    Audrey- Thank you! I’m glad to be home.

    Tom- Thanks for the comment and all the advice and wisdom about Kettle!

    Bob- You’re right, I think. Good people who work hard are often returned with good fortune. See you soon!

    Michelle- Your grandmother sounds like a great role model as well. I think we are really lucky to have such strong women to remember. Thanks for your story.

    JeffO- I will volunteer that I am not perfect, nor is my family. There is some fighting and bickering that occurs, and there are a few people who don’t talk to each other because of old wounds. However, the vast majority of our family is able to see past our differences to our common family bond. And that’s where it counts most, I think. I’m sorry that your family has had its struggles.

    Eric- I think it was the tractor! Hah! I can see a lot of my Grandma’s qualities in my Dad, definitely. Thanks for the resting tip, and I think you’re right that I need to play sleep catch-up!

    Jen- Thanks so much for your thoughts and for your comment. I wonder where in rural Illinois your family comes from?

    Leslie- Another thing that you and I have in common, our tough grandmothers who successfully weathered a huge family loss. Thanks for writing about your story!

  15. Danni says:

    She sounds like an amazing woman. I think that on the whole people used to work harder and I often think about how charmed my existence is. We run ultras to push ourselves to that point of exhaustion.

  16. A says:

    I was so sorry to hear about your grandma’s passing! But then I read this wonderfully written post, and think: what a rich family connection! And, what a tough lady! An inspiring woman, to say the least. You have been blessed to have such warm and solid family legacies! So hard to say goodbye to those we love, but tributes like you have the gift of writing are wonderful in keeping their spirits alive and well. Another beautiful blog post, Meghan!


  17. chelle says:

    I don’t know if you like R&B music at all, but there’s a Jill Scott song called “Try” that is just this message and I really like when it comes up on my running mix. It’s what you said almost exactly:

    I’d remember my mama’s face and her tellin’ me…

    All you gotta do is try
    Then try once again
    Then try a few more times
    Then try after then

    It’s a good message, but it’s also a really nice, mellow, soothing song.

  18. Meghan says:

    Danni- Oh, so that’s what this ultra-thing is all about! Now I understand! Thanks for the nice thoughts about my Grandma.

    Anne- Thank you for saying such nice things! You are so very kind.

    Chelle- I don’t know this song, but I will look for it on iTunes. Thanks for the suggestion!

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