Of all the things my mom did for me growing up, the one I'm the most thankful for is when she married us into a large, crazy family on Feb 6th, 1981. I was 7 years old and suddenly I had a step-father and new uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents. All of whom welcomed my sister and me and always treated us like family. Even saying "treated us like family" seems wrong. They didn't treat us like family, we were family. We are family.
And in the center of that family was my Grandmother, Nellie Austin. She died yesterday Dec. 13, 2014. And so this post is for her. And for my step-father and his 5 brothers and sisters who loved her. And for my sister and cousins who shared her with me.
Grandma Nellie was not what you think of as a traditional grandma. She didn't sew or bake cookies. She didn't offer sage advice. She didn't solve problems. Truth be told, she sometimes caused problems. She was loud. She was confrontational. And she was real. And I hope to one day grow up to be just like her.
Grandma Nellie lived. She was not afraid of life. If there was music playing, she was on the dance floor. You always knew she was in the room. As a child, that was sometimes embarrassing. But as an adult, I find it admirable. She lived out loud. She did not sit in a corner worrying about what others thought or how she should act. She jumped up and danced.
Grandma Nellie confronted society's norms. She loved and married James Austin, a black man, long before it was socially acceptable. She wore pants. She used curse words. She partied. And you knew what she thought of you. She lived by her own standards. And she loved her family. Of that, there was never any doubt.
Grandma Nellie was authentic. What you saw is what you got. And what I saw was a fierce, strong woman. A woman who loved without discrimination. A woman who danced. A woman who lived.
Nellie Lee Austin (Aug 28, 1936- Dec 13, 2014) Rest in Peace Grandma.
(Written December 14, 2014)