June 21, 2013

A Very Special Woman

Her Story

I'd like to tell you all a true-life story about one of the most incredible women I've ever known.

She was born on a summer day during World War II, in a little town in western Washington state. She would grow up the second child, and oldest daughter, of four kids, and learned to care for her younger brother and sister as a teenager. Her working-class parents weren't wealthy, but not having the world given to her on a silver platter taught her to work hard and to appreciate the things you work for. She graduated from Federal Way High School in 1961, and in 1962 she got a job at the Seattle World's Fair.

She also worked at a drive-in theater that summer, and it was there that she met and fell in love with a young dreamer, and the two of them were married that fall.

Between 1963 and 1969 they had three children, two boys and a girl. During those years, she faithfully followed her husband up and down the west coast of the US, as he searched for a way to provide for their family. They had some good times and some bad times, as all married couples do. Sadly, they divorced after almost 11 years of marriage, and in 1973 she found herself a single mother of three young children, hundreds of miles from her closest relatives. She had no career, and although she had taken odd jobs during her marriage, most of her time and energy had been spent being a full-time mother and wife, and she needed to find a way to hold her family together.

Inner Strength

This amazing woman struggled with doubt, fear, pain and loneliness, but she made sure that her children never felt that they were anything but a blessing in her life. She brought her small family back to Washington state to be closer to her parents, and while somehow making their meager allotment of food stamps stretch each week, she went back to school. By taking classes at a local community college, she acquired skills that would enable her to provide her family with a good life. They were never rich, and Hamburger-Helper was on the menu a lot more than steak, but they never went hungry - and they had something that a lot of people never know:  a warm home, full of love and laughter. There was always room for at least one pet, punishments were done more by looks of disappointment than anything else, and their family enjoyed far more happy times than sad ones.

From the moment she became a mother, even during all of the challenges that life threw at her, she gave her children some priceless gifts. A passion for books and reading was basic to her nature, and story time was always important. This fascination and desire for words and ideas became a deep-rooted part of her children's very souls and laid the groundwork for giving them a love of learning... and she was their first and very best teacher.  Her pride in their accomplishments, coupled with high expectations for their progress, gave them a strong sense of self-worth, and her examples of hard work, commitment and perseverance forged deep within them an inner strength that would allow them to become the best people they could be. Her love for her family was always so strong and constant, that they never for a minute doubted her, or their places in her heart ... and this gave them the security and faith to be able to give love to others.

Over the years as her children grew she opened her heart, and often her home, to many of their friends as well. These extra kids all ended up calling her Mom, and she helped to shape their lives and personalities as well. She was always ready to come to the rescue if any of them needed her, and all of them still respect and love her.

Who Is She?

Her name is Audine Grein, but I have always known her as Mom.

I am so blessed to be her son. Compared to many of my friends, I have always had a very unique relationship with my Mom. We never really fought or argued, and I cannot remember a time in my life that I had anything but respect and love for her. I'm sure that I tried her patience over the years, especially when I was a brilliant teenager who knew everything, but she was always my rock, my hero, my inspiration and my friend. She gave me just enough space to be myself, and just enough guidance to keep me from disaster. Though I may not have told her often enough, I have always been so proud of her, and everything that she achieved.

In 1985, my wife and I had our first child, and since Mom was just 42, she informed us she was way too young to be a Grandma. Since her mother was still using that title anyway, (I love you, Gramma),  Mom became Nanny ... and for almost thirty years now, she has been Nanny to grandkids and great-grandkids alike.

As of this writing, she has three children (plus spouses), 11 grandchildren (plus spouses), and 8 great-grandchildren. I created this image as a gift to her for Christmas, 2010 ... and there have been 6 additions to this family tree since then... as well as a few sort-of-adopted members.

Nanny's branches of the family tree,
as it existed in December of 2010.

The Lessons

I owe this amazing woman so much more than I can ever hope to repay ... and she has never expected anything more than love in return.

She taught me to read before I was 5 ... and yes, it's her fault that my bathroom doubles as a library. When you potty train a young child by putting a book in their hands, you may just create a lifelong habit. She is also responsible for my vocabulary. She has a knowledge of the English language that I have yet to find an equal to, and I guarantee, there is no prouder memory in my mind than the first time I actually won a game of Scrabble against my mother, the word-master..

She taught me to drive, to budget, to cook and that mothers really do have ESP when it comes to knowing the truth, so you might as well just be honest with them. She taught me to love myself and others, and more importantly, she taught me that as long as you believe in yourself, it doesn't matter what the world says or thinks about you - that the only limits you have, are the ones you set for yourself.

As we prepare to celebrate her 70th birthday this year, I am reminded just how blessed our family is, to have her in our lives, our hearts and our souls, not to mention most of our DNA.

Regardless of whether she is Mom, Nanny or Great-Grandma, she has always been a pillar of strength, a light in the darkness, a warm hug when the world is cold, the absolute best place to turn when you need to know the answer to just about any question ... and hers is still the face and voice that deep inside I long for when I get an Owwie on my knee, or in my heart..

I love you Mom ... that's always and forever ...

From Grandpa's Heart ....


  1. dusty, I loved this.

  2. I am proud to be one of the daughter-n-laws who get to call her mom. Never did she make me feel like I wasn't good enough for her son. I became part of the family even before Brandon and I said I do

  3. Oh... Dust~
    I love this!!!
    I still remember the first time I met her and how sweet and kind she was to this new, little girl who was now a part of everyone's lives. I've always admired her strength and how much she gives of herself.
    Bless you all!

  4. is it true that you got potty traind by reading a book on the tolet?
    but i still love you and nanny!


    1. Yes, Onna ... I learned to use the big potty while reading a book, and I like to read in the bathroom to this day - It makes the time go by faster :)~