G is for Grandma, My Wonder Woman
I’ll always remember countless times walking up the steps to her apartment, wondering why such an old woman like her lived at the top of a duplex. Then I would remember: It’s Grandma, the woman who swam laps every morning, who I would walk to the grocery store with on the way to the mosque, the woman who spent a week every year in the woods, sleeping in cabins and going on challenge hikes that even I was afraid to go on. She kept this up all the way until the very last few months of her life.
I remember one time, my sister and I were walking with her to the grocery store to buy a few things she needed for her house. As we were walking back home, one of the sidewalk squares was a little uneven. She must not have noticed because she tripped over it and began falling to the ground. In this moment, I froze in panic. I had heard stories of grandparents falling and ending up in the hospital. And we were in the middle of the sidewalk with no other adults around. What would I do?
What happened next I don’t think I’ll ever forget. As she fell, she put her hands out in front of her to break her fall, pushed herself sideways so that she almost did a summersault, and rolled back up to her feet. My 60-something year old Grandma just fell, rolled on her back, stood up, and kept walking as if nothing had happened. After watching that and asking countless times if she was okay, only one thing could be concluded from the experience: My Grandma must be Wonder Woman.
However, I have two wonder women in my life. When Grandma passed away, I wrote a lot about her. You never know what you got till it’s gone, right? But I realized recently that I never wrote anything about my other grandma. My Nanima. And for her sake, I shouldn’t wait until she’s gone to tell her how much she means to me.
She is the typical Desi auntie. Speaks half in Urdu, half English, doesn’t like the indecency seen on TV nowadays, and nags and worries about her kids and grandkids like only a mother could. But underneath all that, she’s a tough one.
I recently volunteered with her at a church in which we were conducting free health screenings. When we got there, we found the place unprepared for us. Nothing was set up and the people sitting inside had no idea why we were there. Yet without batting an eye, my Nanima, clearly the oldest out of all of us, stood at the front of the room, filled with tough-looking middle-aged men, and yelled at them to stop watching TV and come get their blood pressure checked. When some of them dismissed her, she boldly went to each table and convinced quite a few of them to start caring and learning about their health status.
When it comes to health, it doesn’t matter who she’s talking to. She used to work professionally with drug addicts. In that moment, she will forget about the many differences between the two of them and become their mom and give them a good talking to about how they should take control of their lives. Even now, while she is retired, I still hear her on the phone nearly every day giving someone somewhere a motivational speech. That dedication to her fellow humans is the quality of a Wonder Woman.
At the end of the day, no matter who they were inspiring, they were and are still my grandmas.