Grandma Betty is my “grandmother in law” — she’s my partner’s grandmother who has made a big impact in my life.
Grams is 90 years old. Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, she came of age during a time when women were meant to be seen and not heard. Due in part to the way in which women were situated in society, she left the south and a successful tennis career and ventured west.
After the death of her husband, Grams developed a new take on life. She began to speak her opinions and live life on her terms. When my partner came out and left home, she welcomed them to live with her during a tumultuous time in their life. My partner says that she literally saved their life, providing a love and an understanding that was unconditional. Raised in a religious family with strong views about sexuality, Grams, through her deepening relationship with her gay and gender queer grandchild, widened her perspective and as such influenced the entire family to live lives where unconditional love was the foundation.
Grams loves to write letters to the local newspaper with her opinions on social issues. She wrote one letter, “Love Letter to My Lesbian Grandchild” that was published alongside a sweet photo of her and my partner. The letter detailed her personal transformation in growing to learn even more about how a healthy society must fight against prejudice and discrimination in all forms.
Grams throughout the years has become wise council to many of our friends and loved ones, and has developed a cult following. She’s known to love cats, has the softest skin ever, and prays the rosary for nearly everyone she meets. As the matriarch of the family, she is sweet but never to a fault.
What I love about her is her tenacity, her southern sensibilities, and her overall love of life. Until very recently, she took herself throughout San Francisco on the bus, attending plays and movies, eating cheeseburgers, and having a bourbon and soda with the drag queens in the Castro. She’s a humbling and inspirational example of how love can keep you healthy throughout the years, and serves as proof that you really can get better with age.