Episode 54 is available on most podcast apps, including Google, Spotify, Anchor and Apple...
|3 Generations: G-ma (Jan Dennis), her daughter Paula and granddaughter (my sister) Kelsey|
This episode is all about G-ma, our family nickname for my late grandmother, Jan Dennis. The interview featured here took place over a year ago, and I actually spoke with her several times about her life stories and running to make it- with many bloopers throughout the process (on me). I remember as a teenager I oohed and ahhed over the crates full of race t-shirts she had accumulated, forming a colorful patchwork of training years and adventures with friends and family over the years. Each t-shirt had a story, which she could recall at a moment's notice, and probably tell you the youth and adult contenders and their stories too! Many of those years in her adult life were marked by training for and traveling to races, and then cheering for the next generation at cross country and track meets. She adopted all of us and encouraged/followed us as if we were her own children, even married-to grandchildren like myself. In this interview, we also discuss what it was like to grow up on a farm and memories of the great depression, and a bit about being a woman in sports and college life shortly after WWII.
|Holidays were always large affairs, squeezing as many of us as possible into Gma's living & sleeping spaces.|
Aside from the running though, G-ma was a lifelong endurance athlete: raising 5 children of her own and managing and early-rising bakery, as well as a builder of community and family. She had a knack for knowing everything about each of us, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. As I finished college and started my own career (and completed my first marathon in Detroit International), I recall how I began to recognize her abundant wisdom in dedicating so much time to these few commitments, but making them truly quality ones; Her purpose in life was easy to see as she invested in each of us continually. And I would say it paid off. Speaking for myself, I always felt like I had someone in my corner, and someplace I could escape to if I just needed a break from the hectic world of striving and being tested. Here I was unconditionally accepted (and teased, and taught to remember to laugh at myself). This is probably the greatest skill and lesson I have learned from my "Dennis extended family": if you can laugh at yourself and your mistakes (not take myself and my goals too seriously, which I naturally do), you'll not only have much less stress, but also no one can surprise you by revealing your foolishness and foibles- you already know them! I try to do the same in my life now, not over-extending but asking myself daily what I truly value and committing the lion's share of my time to that.
Perhaps this is the best testament to G-ma: All of her grandchildren and great grandchildren adore her and I daresay even listen to her (actions more than words), venerating her "ancient" values of honesty, hard work and keeping commitments. I saw this in small ways that spoke loudly: when she/grandpa would drive hours to attend one of my important races or games throughout high school and college, or more recently make it to my wedding in her later years despite not driving (thanks to my uncle), as she suffered from macular degeneration. She also showed us true resilience and strength when my grandfather passed suddenly in the late 90s, rallying and connecting even more with extended family and friends. She was a member of "The Red Hat Society", and loved to share life in big and small ways with others. This also led her to take countless trips to national parks and historic places on bus trips with friends after my grandfather passed away, as she just loved learning and sharing journeys with others. Her faith life was also simple: full of fellowship and concern for others but never preaching. She would never criticize or rest in things of the past when you admitted some avoidable blunder to her or demonstrated bad judgement, she just let you know you could do better and nudged you to re-think it next time: Experience is the best teacher. Bumps in the road were always just that, signposts along the route to improvement. I know her love will be carried on by all of us in the future roads we travel, and for me her spirit will carry on as a gentle voice of encouragement and stable compass in this often confusing and unpredictable world. I couldn't be happier to share this interview with you, and would love to hear more stories about everything and from everyone - please feel free to leave some in the COMMENTS section below! www.runninganthropologist.com
|Me with nephew and G-ma, recent visit "up north"|
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