My girlhood heroine is a relative who was not related to me by blood. Grandma Ruth “adopted” me when my dad painted her porch one summer. Winning me over with a wind-up toy clown, she took me in as one of her own grandchildren, despite having no legal or blood relation. Instantly, Grandma Ruth taught me the endless capacity one has to choose to love others and to create families that surpass genetics and law.
As I grew up, Grandma Ruth encouraged all of my best habits — creativity, generosity through volunteering, and the importance and thoughtfulness of handwritten letters (One can never receive too much non-junk mail.). Every summer, I spent hours volunteering at Grandma Ruth’s “work,” the Karmanos Cancer Institute, where she logged countless unpaid hours teaching people about the evils of smoking in honor of her late husband. Grandma Ruth found positive ways to give back, even in the face of loss. As the founder of MissHeard Magazine, I try to put these lessons into practice myself. She encouraged me to read, to put on elaborate performances, to play and to explore. Grandma Ruth reminded me to not dog ear my book pages because “they are our friends.” This is the one lesson I have ignored — sorry Grandma.
Grandma Ruth passed right before my 17th birthday, months before I finished high school. She left me money that allowed me to pay for my housing all through college — housing I would have otherwise struggled to afford. Even in her death, Grandma Ruth did her best to make sure her grandchildren were loved and taken care of. Her love knew no bounds; the kind of love I am inspired to put into the world every day.