The writer’s bloodline

When I was six, I learned how to tell a good story by sitting on the diving board of my grandmother’s pool.

Every night, Gramma would swim laps before bed. Her best friend would come over and as the two of them sliced slowly through the water, I told stories. I was obsessed with a stone owl statue that stood guard over her garden, and I chronicled his adventures with the toads and butterflies and squirrels.

As I perched on the edge and dangled my toes in the water, I played with story arc and character development.

I leaned about suspense and foreshadowing.

I learned how to utilize supporting characters to bring out the essence of your hero and how to use humor to illuminate an essential truth.

I learned how to be a writer.

After the swim, Gramma would critique the story as she toweled off, telling me the parts she loved and the parts where she lost track of the plot line. She never coddled me, never gave praise when it wasn’t due. I’d nod and thoughtfully furrow my brow and considered how I could refine the owl’s story for tomorrow night’s swim.

My Gramma knew how to use words. She came up through the newspaper world. She was one of those gutsy young broads of the late 1940s – working long hours as an editor at the place she reverentially referred to as “The Paper.”

She lived at the YWCA, and wondered if the fellas in the newsroom were saying she looked tired when they told her she had “bedroom eyes.” One day, with shaky hands, she marched into her boss’s office and demanded to be paid on par with those men. After that, they respected her more and started offering her cigarettes. She tucked them away in her purse, saying she’d smoke them later. She didn’t like cigarettes, but her boyfriend did, and the man who would become my grandfather couldn’t afford his own smokes.

Her love of words traveled through the bloodline and directly into my heart. However, unlike me, her spelling was impeccable. She slaughtered me at Wheel of Fortune.

In so many ways, she made me a writer.

And I am so deeply grateful. For that, and a million other things.

My grandmother is not here anymore, she passed away two weeks ago and I’m still learning to talk about her in past tense.

But the stone owl from her garden now stands watch over mine.

And he reminds me of where this writer’s soul of mine came from.

Me and Gramma, a few months ago, visiting a winery in Virginia. One of my favorite days ever.



36 Replies to “The writer’s bloodline”

  1. Oh Lisa, I’m so very sorry for your loss. Your grandmother sounds like such a treasure. I look forward to the stories you will share about her and that lovely stone owl in the weeks and months to come. (((((((((biggest biggest hugs!))))))))))

  2. Sorry for your loss, she sounded like a wonderful woman. ” Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal “

  3. It is to your credit that you spent that time with her wisely. Too many dismiss older people and their vast experience, knowledge.

    Sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  4. So, so sorry to hear of the loss of your grandmother. My condolences to you as I know she will be deep in your thoughts, and you’ll be reminded of her influence on you once again when your book is released. May you find comfort as you push forward.

    Btw – don’t feel bad about the spelling. Your grandmother was the exception to the rule. They say writers are the worse spellers. When I am writing, my biggest use of bing/google is to find out how a word is spelled. I’m pretty sure a writer invented the search engine. 🙂

  5. lovely story Lisa. Fortunately you had her for a long time. It is always good to know our family and learn what we can from them which helps to build character.

  6. I’m so sorry to hear of your grandmother’s passing. No matter how young or old, expected or unexpected, losing a loved one is never easy. This post is a lovely tribute to your grandmother. Cherish her memory. Big hugs to you.

    1. Lisa,

      You are fortunate to have had someone like her in your life and we are fortunate to have you remind us of the times when we were so fortunate.


  7. So I’d usually respond on Twitter, but I really need more characters this time.

    This was very moving to me and it evoked memories of my own grandfather, who was to me the closest thing a Jewish kid ever got to Santa Claus. He was the kind of grandfather kids dream about: a man who embraced goofiness and absurdity to get a laugh from his little grandkids but who was also a sound, sharply perceptive voice of intelligence for his adult grandchildren.

    He was an artist who taught me about writing in the way he enjoyed the hell out of anything he made, even if he considered it crap. “I still had a good time doing it,” he told me, once. “That’s what really counts: did YOU like it? Marketability comes second.”

    I lost him nearly two years ago now, and I STILL have difficulty speaking of him in the past tense. I still want to call him and share information I know he’d enjoy; I want to tell him how his great-grandkids are doing and how far along I am in my latest writing endeavor.

    Thank you for sharing your memories of your grandmother here. It really brought home to me how human we all are in the losses we share.

  8. Not only did you get the owl from your grandmother, you got her wise mind to see what is weak and needs work in your story. She gave you the drive to continue on. She gave you love, the kind we try to write, but never really get there

  9. Lisa, I’m so sorry. Was there any written work by your Gramma that you would like to share with us? Any beautiful words of wisdom on life? love? (love the pic of you both)

  10. I have recently suscribed to your blog all the way from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I am loving it!
    I am sorry for your loss. Grammas are a one of life’s greatest things and I lost both of mine back in 1997.
    There is a poem I love about death that has helped me to cope with all deaths from family and friends and I would like to share it with you too. Hope it helps you as it helps me!
    “Do not stand at my grave and weep;
    I am not there, I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow;
    I am the diamond glints on snow.
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awaken in the morning rush,
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    of quiet birds in circled flight.
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry;
    I am nit there; I did not die.”
    Mary Elizabeth Frye – 1932

  11. My condolences to you Dear Lisa, what a precious picture of you two. Remember her with Love and cherish the memories and what she contributed to you as a person is marvelous. I hope the memories become treasures in your heart in the future to console you. So sorry for your loss. Time is a great healer, time is the only thing which will make a difference. What a person meant to you in your psyche is what determines how long you will grieve. No one can put a time limit on that, it just takes time. May all people you encounter treat you with Love and Respect and God Bless You. (( ❤ )) We remember our teachers with a special feeling for they contributed to who we are and who we'll be always.

  12. Now we know where your gift of story telling comes from. She must have been so proud to see you become a published author.

    Of all of the photos you’ve posted, this is the one that I always remember as being the best. Both of you look so happy and connected.
    All of us are fortunate that you are willing to share such intimate moments; thank you.

    I’m so sorry for your loss.


  13. I know your absence also, my grams Fran, Lou and Elsie are gone. But the inpact they make in our lives is amazing! I can’t wait to be a gram one day.

  14. Tua nonna deve essere stata una bella persona. Il suo ricordo ti accompagnerà per sempre e ogni volta che penserai ad un gufo, penserai a lei.
    Anch’io ho avuto una nonna stupenda, una nonna eccezionale, madre di 12 figli, nonna di 32 nipoti.

  15. this is great. i’m sure your grandmother was very proud of you, lisa.
    so sorry you lost her. mine passed years ago and i always wished i could have known her better.

  16. How terribly sad for you to have lost someone so dear. My sincere condolences to you. May you find comfort in your wonderful memories of a thoughtful and energetic grandmother who passed her storytelling talent and writing gift on to you. She must have been so proud of you.

  17. I would like to say a personal Hi to you, Lisa. Sounds to me that you and your grandma were very close. I remember my grandmother and how she inspired my life. Could you post a picture of the stone owl statue. God bless you, Lisa.

  18. Aww, Lisa, I’m so sorry to hear such sad news.

    Your Grandma sounds like an amazing and inspirational lady to have had in your life and a big hand in helping you discover your talent for writing. She must have been immeasurably proud to see you publish your first book!

    I understand how hard it must be now writing about your Grandma in past tense. I struggle to get my head around the feeling of ‘finality’ of death (a lot of my anxieties tend to stem from the fear of losing loved ones) and my Mum had some sage advice.. She said that how she looks at it is that for as long as you are alive, your parents and their parents etc are alive in you. They are a part of you in every sense, you are made up of each of them after all! I found this a comforting thought that these people never really ‘go’, but for you to know that your gift of writing comes from your lovely Grandma, she lives in every single piece that you write. She is with you in everything you do.

    ‘Death Is Nothing At All’ by Henry Scott Holland is a comforting passage that my Grandma had read at her funeral.

    There is so much to celebrate in your post about your Grandma’s life that I don’t think she would have wanted everyone to dwell on her passing in their comments, but rather to celebrate and congratulate you on yet another thought evoking and lovely piece of writing by her talented Granddaughter. She would be very proud I’m sure!

    Sending good thoughts your way,

    Louise x

  19. I am so sorry for your loss. My grandmother isn’t the coddling type either, and she can kick my butt at Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Boggle. I hope that stone owl whispers all sorts of wonderful memories to you as you cope with this loss.

  20. Lisa,

    May you find peace in the memories of a woman who will never “really” die…she will live on in your heart and through your life as you continue to live it.

    We, your readers, are as blessed to have your gifts of writing to enjoy and cherish as you were to have the love, good counsel, and understanding of your beloved grandmother for all those years.

    Thank you for so generously sharing your feelings and gift with us. Peace to you, my friend.

  21. Wonderful post, Lisa. It resonated with me so much. My grandma was my Rock of Gibraltar–a tiny woman with a great spirit and spunk, and although very shy, she never took crap off of anybody. That was what I loved about her most. I miss her every day, as I know you will miss your own grandma. Carry her with you always. She will show up around you and within you at the most unexpected times, keeping you strong and letting you know how much you are loved.

    1. My sympathies My 93 year old father died a few months ago I fully understand what you are experiencing

  22. I know how you feel Lisa as I lost my Gramma 6 months ago and my Grampa last month. I still struggle to speak of them in the past tense. They taught me so much about who I am that I am who I am today because of them. You are most fortunate to have had a great relationship with you Gramma and I am so sorry for your loss.

  23. My deepest condolence to you u for losing your Rock-of-Gibraltar, your lovely grandma. I envied you for having such a wonderful grandma who shape who you are today and I your writing. I enjoyed reading your blog when l’m finished feeding, cleaning and taking care of my demensia Mum (for over 8 years now) and being quite bed ridden after her fall over 2 years ago.
    Remember that although loved ones are gone, the beautiful time spent will be etched deep in your heart and mind, too.
    Have a pleasant weekend.

  24. Hello Lisa,

    Thank you for such a wonderful blog and story including the photo of two lovely lady — your grandmother and you. Have a pleasant evening and God bless.

    Your fan,

    Teresa (Chai)

  25. Dear Lisa,

    Please allow me to extend my deepest condolences to you. This post resonates with me, as it does for so many others. I understand a writer’s bloodline very well (my grandfather my father have done their share of writing); feeling a kinship with you as a fellow scribe. I do hope that during this difficult space of time that you find yourself comforted by the love you are receiving and the knowledge that so many prayers are being sent out for you and your family.

    Do have a restful evening.


  26. Hi Lisa,

    You writing ability is ability I wish I had, but I enjoy the writing and the words you express.

    Couldn’t help watching Mrs Doubtfire again tonight, which brings a tear to my eye, not only the show itself, which could be tears of laughter, but also the messages of broken marriages, which I have experienced myself in the past 2 months and how sad it can be…not to be close to my daughter more often I would like too…I wish it could be different, but we cope as much as possible..

    Still feels very cereal to think the Robin Williams, a legend, has gone to soon…it must bring a tear to eye, as much as does to me as a fan…

    Keep up the great writing, looking forward to your next email…cheers.

    Phil Brash Melbourne Australia

    Sent from my iPhone


  27. Lisa I am so sorry for your loss. My grandmother was so important to me as well, she was always my champion with never an unkind word. I still miss her. I’m keeping you in my thoughts. She’s very very proud of you and will be with you that moment when you feel the heft of your first book in your hands. *HUGS*

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s