What would Nina do?

Nina was my grandma. She was the youngest of eight kids and adored by all. Two days after her nineteenth birthday, she married my grandpa and promptly set up house in the middle of western Kansas, which is just as desolate as you think. She set up house for herself, her new husband … and his three teenage brothers.

Did I mention this was during the Depression?

This would surely explain Nina’s lifelong ability to produce amazing meals from completely bare cupboards. She loved it when company would stop by, and she’d never let them leave with an empty stomach. She could make a casserole out of lint and some potato chips, and it would be lovely.

Nina also didn’t take any crap, although she’d never use the word “crap.” During the war, she babysat in her home while many of her friends were being Rosie the Riveter. She had one little boy who was always biting the other kids … until she bit him back. The kid never bit anyone ever again.

My grandma always had things under control. She passed away six days before my brother was to move to Wales. The funeral was held the day before his departure. He was able to pay his respects and make his plane.

A few weeks later, I ran into one of the ladies who volunteered at the funeral luncheon. She was four hours from home, wandering through an architectural salvage shop, and seeing her was like seeing an apparition – I was totally unprepared. But this kind woman spoke so sweetly about Nina, and wondered if my brother had made it to Wales. I replied that he had, and that it was almost like my grandma had planned the whole thing.

This kindly woman looked me square in the eye and said, “Cha Cha, your grandma always knew what she was doing.”

I’ve carried this with me for the last six and a half years. I can’t believe she’s gone. I still find myself thinking that I’ll have to remember to tell Grandma thus-and-such. And I have so many things I wish I could ask her.

If I’m still, I know what she would say about just about everything. This daughter of an abusive, alcoholic dad, this very young wife, this mother of three and grandma of eight, this wife of 69 years, this woman who was never as old as her numeric age … she’d tell me to get over it. Whatever it is, get over it.

I am battling a severe case of work burnout, bordering on depression. And I’m desperate for any words of wisdom, any kind help to right my ship. I know that Nina the pragmatist would tell me to just stop worrying so much, be glad for my job, and tend to Mr. Wonderful, lest he disappear altogether.

And then I’d provide more details and more mess. And yet? And yet, her advice wouldn’t change, nor would it need to.

Nina once told me that the secret to her 69-year-marriage was that they took one day at a time. At the time, this made me laugh and laugh. But now, I see that’s pretty good advice for life in general.

So. Any questions for the smart lady with the mischievous look in her eye? Send ‘em my way and I’ll do my best to channel Nina.

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