My Grandmother Lo was extremely talented at just about everything. She had so many interests and she turned her passions and talent into a variety of careers (concrete dispatcher, community volunteer, counseling psychologist, publicist). She had a bachelor's degree in Chemistry when most women didn't attend college. She earned a PhD in her 50s. She owned and operated her own business. She traveled the world on her own and with each of her grandchildren - I was fortunate enough to travel to Japan with her when she was in her 70s. She did it All when no one even spoke about doing it all.
She was a scratch golfer, and coached diving and synchronized swimming. She could sew and make pottery. She bought a loom and learned to weave in her late 70s. She could draw and paint. She did the lettering for each of the ready-mix trucks when my grandfather first started his company. She drew portraits of the first few employees of the company, and some 60 years later of her companions in the nursing home during her final days (she actually had an appointment book of people awaiting portraits).
In 1956, my grandmother painted a mural in the basement stairwell of our family home - the home she raised my Dad and his three siblings in - the same home where my brother and sister and I grew up. She had each of the kids pose for their own picture, and apparently the image above of my Dad and my Aunt holding hands as young teenagers was especially difficult to get.
I try to envision how she would have had to stand on a ladder to paint, perched on the steep stairs with kids, dogs, cats, balls and who knows what else hurtling her way and threatening to send her crashing down. Did she paint this in the middle of the night? How long did it take her to finish?
In the image above, my grandfather is playing golf, and my uncles are shown fishing and stretched out next to the family cat.
Up in the far corner of the stairwell, my grandmother included her own image - piloting a plane. Did I mention she was also a pilot??
I wish I could ask my grandmother how she found the courage to try new things, how she defied the norms of her time and made her own path. I'd like to ask her what it was like to be a mom in the 50s, how she approached career and family, and if she had any role models or mentors. I knew her well enough to know that she lived her life without regret, without looking back, without fear or guilt. And always, ahead of her time.
Note: I took these images the last time I was at my parents' house with just my cell phone. I need to get some better shots with my real camera sometime. The size of these images are hard to grasp here but they run floor to ceiling in the tall stairwell, almost life-size. Amazing.