My grandmother has been on my mind this week. I lost her 28 years ago on June 4th. I remember the year well. It’s the year I met Robb, and I often wish they could have met. My grandmother would have gotten a kick out of my husband, and I know Robb would have loved the challenge of getting her to laugh.
She was born in the late 1800s, and was the youngest of 10 children. During the depression, she owned and operated the only mercantile store in a small town in Oregon. She and my grandfather farmed nearby. They had only one child, my mother, as my grandmother nearly died during childbirth. Soon after their 50th wedding anniversary, she lost my grandfather. It would be a few years later, but she would go on to have another loving relationship. She ballroom danced into her 80s, held pinochle parties (she and I were unstoppable partners), and while she had a rock hard exterior, she also had the warmest hugs, the biggest heart, and the sweetest smile. In her life, she often took the road that many would not expect a woman of her time to take.
Someone once asked what were the themes that I write about in my novels. “Murder mystery,” I’d replied at the time. But that wasn’t the question. Solving the mystery was the exercise of the book, something my main character achieves, but not the underlying theme. The journey that my characters undertook, not only to solve the crime, but how they changed from the beginning to the end is where the answer resided.
While there are many themes throughout my stories, one prevails. My characters traverse roads less traveled and do so with strong determination to do it their way. My private investigator struggles to step out from her father’s shadow and make a name for herself. My travel writer picks up the investigation her sister left off when she was murdered. Both are choices that throw my characters out of their comfort zones. Strong women, living on the edge, making choices that may seem edgy, but not out of character for the kick ass women I’ve created.
Which brings me back to my grandmother. At 4’11”, and 90 pounds all wet, she always did things her way, had a strong determination to get things done, and the ability to instill fear in us all if we tested her. She took her life in stride, created her own pathways, and came out ahead. She was a tough cookie. But I loved no one more than that little lady. And when I think back to people who influenced me, I would say she was top among the many.
We all have people that have blazed trails for us. Make us think different ways. Who we take after in some way or another. My grandmother is that woman for me, and the inspiration and the why in my writing that I am driven to explore the mysteries of those roads less traveled. Who was that person for you?
PS – The picture is of my Grandma Ada Barry, and my step-grandfather Don. Her dance partner for 13 years.