Or: My Nana was Better than Yours
Josephine Genevieve Croftcheck Posta Anderson. That’s a very big name for a very small lady. But that’s how it was with my Nana. She was five-foot-nothing and carried herself like she was twelve feet tall and would crush you into dust if you crossed her.
She died two years ago, yesterday, and there hasn’t been a single day since that I haven’t talked about her, thought about her, laughed about her, or cried for her. I still pick up the phone to call her sometimes. It will probably be that way forever.
Everybody loves their grandmother, but let’s get one thing perfectly clear – my Nana is better than yours. In fact, I’d go as far as to say my dead Nana is better than your living one. This isn’t even a matter of opinion, everyone who knew Nana adopted her as their own.
If you had the good fortune to have known her, consider yourself lucky. If not, you missed out on a truly one of a kind person. And not because of anything she did, but because when God made her, He knew better than to make another.
Nana had an uncanny ability to win the love and affection of anyone and everyone. She was kind and loving, but shrewd enough to use that to her advantage almost constantly. Nana was Italian-American, and moved to the South as a young adult, but could keep pace with any and every Southern woman in terms of saccharine insults. Of course, she operated at a tactical advantage, since she didn’t punctuate her malice with a requisite ‘bless your heart.’ I’ve watched her say legitimately unkind things to people with a smile on her face, then they would hug her, tell her they loved her and walk away without ever fully realizing what happened.
Despite this, Nana’s greatest skill was knowing how to treat people and make them feel valued. She did her best to coach me in these ways, but would be quick to point out that I’m not that good at it because I’m overly sarcastic and curse too much, but what can you do…
Josephine was a sassy, sweet, old Italian broad. She was also a notorious liar, in that harmless white-lie kind of way, but that was somehow part of her charm. Everyone loved her – they had no choice. We only gave two days notice for her funeral, and four hundred people showed up, most of them crying like they had lost a member of their own family. That was the sort of person she was, and the kind of impact she had on everyone who knew her.
Nana was the peak of human ability to grandparent, a true watershed moment in human history, and it will all be downhill from here. I know that I have a habit of exaggerating, but I honestly believe that. If I can be half the grandparent she was, I will feel accomplished.
I could go on for tens of thousands of words about how and why Nana was one of the finest people to grace the face of this planet, but I will restrain myself.
As I mentioned last week, Nana and Dad were the only two folks mentioned in the original dedication of The Snowflake Effect. My father for his stern pragmatism and determination that I never forgot that I was nobody just like everyone else. Nana, though, was always the counterbalance to this, never missing an opportunity to remind me that I was somebody, if for no other reason than her blood runs through my veins.
I realize that it’s odd for me to point out how important this was to me, having written the anti-self-esteem book and all, but there is more to it than Nana telling me that I was all sorts of special and snowflakey.
Nana always told me I was special and destined for some sort of power, prominence, or wealth. So far I’ve managed to miss the mark on all three, and don’t see that changing, but she would be unphased by this and offer the same sort of support and reassurance she always had.
By the time I reached adolescence, her compliments had lost a lot of their glimmer. I knew they were arbitrary, but also knew they were an expression of her love, making them valid and meaningful. Nana loved me unconditionally, which is something I can say about very few people in this world.
Even though her praise was not genuine, I knew that her love was, and that is why it worked. This is the primary difference between what she was doing and what society was doing at the time. It didn’t matter that she was praising to praise, because there was a foundation of love and genuineness. Being handed a trophy or an award for something semi-factual didn’t have the same meaning because there was nothing supporting it. Everyone was getting an award, so it wasn’t hard to see that they were just making it all up.
Without Nana to balance out the starkness of my father’s chosen style of parenting, I may have lacked the confidence to do things like write a book, or feel comfortable with putting my inane ramblings on the internet for any and all to read and criticize. Without Nana, I would not be who I am today and I would not have the life I have today. She believed in me, so I believed in myself. Not necessarily for myself, but for her – anyone who knew her would tell you that she had a habit of bragging, so I always did my best to give her something to brag about.
Josephine was an extraordinary human being and a legitimately special person. She was an actual snowflake in a world full of fugazis and counterfeits – a diamond in a sea of glass.
Nana was the best grandmother in the world. She was better than your grandmother. She’s dead, and she’s still better than your grandmother. And if you don’t believe me, she would probably tell you to go fuck yourself, but in such an insidiously sweet way you would love her that much more.