My great-grandma just turned 81 last December; though if you had a phone conversation with her you wouldn’t think her a day over 21. Yes, she goes too far most of the time, spouting curses and careless, somewhat rude observations at public places filled with horrified mothers. And yes, she’s not the best driver (has hit an old lady’s car at the Dairy Queen drive-thru; has run over numerous curbs), and she doesn’t have the best memory (every time she eats chips she says: “I haven’t had chips in ages!”), but that’s what makes her Nancy Anne Darnall. If you know her (and you probably do because in this town everyone knows everyone), you know that she’s about 4’11 (she would probably like me to write that she used to be 5’2), she has short grey hair, and she normally wears her navy blue Merrell’s. Her favorite hobbies nowadays are coloring in her adult coloring books (she’s been at it every day since we got her one for her birthday 2 years ago and currently has 14 books given to her for Christmas this year), reading her beloved James Patterson mystery novels (she keeps a list of the ones she’s read so she doesn’t read them over again), and watching Family Feud reruns (she thinks Steve Harvey’s a riot). Did I mention that she’s really, really cool? I mean, it’s in the title. I didn’t think I had to.
When’s the last time your great-grandma cursed at your scholastic bowl meet? Never, right? Well mine did last week, and it’s the second time now. No one participating or viewing the match noticed (thank God) except for my mother and stepfather, who chuckled quietly with their hands covering their smirking mouths when the curse slipped from the ever-flapping lips of my great-grandmother. It wasn’t anything too edgy or controversial, just an exclamation that starts with s that we say when we’ve made a mistake that I’m sure we’ve all said or heard at some point. Numerous times she has told me of the comical discoveries she’s had when searching the dictionary for every bad word she knows. You know you’re an okay kid when you have to tell your great-grandma to stop cussing so much. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if she neglected to curse at public places and events, but she stopped caring when people started laughing.
“I’m 80, I can say whatever the heck I want”- Nancy Anne Darnall (she didn’t say
heck). That’s the quote that she uses when I tell her to stop cursing so much. She’s said it so many times now I’ve stopped scolding her.
The way my grandma has made a positive impact on my life is by simply being herself at all times. She could care less if someone didn’t like her. That’s the attitude that I’d like to have. It’s much harder than you think to try and be yourself in middle school when there’s a whole school of people willing to make fun of you for the slightest mistake. She’s stayed unchained and opinionated her whole life. Even after the death of her husband of 58 years (R.I.P Robert Gene Darnall), and the early death of her son Mark, she still remained spunkier and more alive than ever. Nothing can stop her from expressing herself. That’s what I’ve learned from her. Nothing and no one can stop you from being yourself except for yourself. You don’t always have to follow the social norms and manners of society. Sometimes it’s more fun to break them anyway.
Another thing she’s taught me is that you don’t just have to sit around and do nothing when you retire. When life gives you nothing, might as well go do something else. She volunteers at every nursing-retirement home in town. She does nails for the elderly, bringing home stories of men who like to have their nails clear-polished and particularly bad younger volunteers. She also exercises on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with her friend group, and afterwards they drink coffee and chat. On other days she goes to McDonald’s to drink a half a cup of coffee (never more, never less) with old friends of hers, informing me that they switch every other day between McDonald’s and Hardee’s (intriguing stuff, no love for Subway?). Me and my mom secretly think she just goes there to flirt with the older men, and she hasn’t exactly denied our claim. Why shouldn’t she? She’s a catch.
Anyway, my point is that even after all these years of hardships and sadness, my great-grandma has stayed active and has gotten happier and funnier each day of her life. She simply doesn’t except that her age is supposed to be weighing her down, and instead powers through each day with the same youthfulness and gusto that she had in her high school years. That’s what I want to be like when I’m her age. She’s taught me to live each day to the fullest, because we never know how many we have left. She brings humor into any situation (maybe not always the most appropriate), and is always the center of attention. My grandma has stayed herself all her life, never letting the obstacles of life get in the way of her happiness. She is one of my greatest role models, and one of my best friends. She’s taught me more than I could ever know, and I don’t know that I’ve ever thanked her. Who know’s how much longer I’ll have, so might as well do it right now.
Thank you for everything Grandma Nancy. Love, Riley.