Damn The Man

by karlyn on January 7, 2011

This is my grandmother. She is the quintessential little old lady – no more than 4’10″ tall, soft spoken and god forbid she ever run out of lipstick because that would constitute an emergency of epic proportion. She raised 8 kids in a house that I’m reasonably sure has less square footage than my apartment and, for good measure, use to babysit my brother and I and our cousins every day after school and during the summer.

Several years ago, my grandmother lost her leg due to years of problems that were exasperated by her unwillingness to give up her smoking habit and she wound up in a nursing home. She still refused to give up smoking against doctor’s orders and my family was divided about whether or not they should continue to support her habit by buying her cigarettes. Some of them didn’t want to continue to enable her while others didn’t want to take that simple pleasure away from her. The latter prevailed and Gram continued to be supplied with her several-times-daily dose of nicotine.

Fast forward a few years and the nursing home has come up with a new policy that will ban smoking on the premises. For everyone. The losing half of my family saw victory in their sight – Gram would be FORCED to give up smoking whether she liked it or not.

But not so fast – never underestimate the motivation of a little old lady. Gram and her friend, a fellow smoker, rallied. They formed a committee of sorts, found a representative for their cause, filed a grievance and found a little known loophole in the nursing home rules that required them to be grandfathered into the new rule. The result? The nursing home is required to bring Gram out for her regular smokes when neither the staff nor any of the residents who came in after the rule was enacted can have their cigarettes.

The moral of the story? When someone tells you “no”, don’t accept it. Keep knocking on doors until people tell you yes. Don’t be afraid of rejection – let it motivate you. If the worst thing that happens is that someone tells you “no”, then that’s probably not that bad of a thing. People accept “no” way too easily for the sake of keeping the status quo, which means nothing more than you’re giving up what you really want. Life is too short to give up on what you really want to please other people (whether or not what you really want is actually good for you, like in my grandmother’s case!).

Or they might be telling you “no” because they are too scared to get out and do it themselves. Fine. But just because they’re scared to step outside of the box doesn’t mean you have to be. Anytime I hear anyone say that you need to do something a certain way because that’s the way it’s always been done, it immediately makes red warning lights of doom go off in my head…things like that probably need to be changed more than most.

I often joke with my grandmother about this story and tell her that she’s an inspiration. She always just laughs and gives me a nod of approval.

Update: My Gram died on July 12, 2011. We buried her in a bright red urn with a little bottle of Black Velvet and a pack of Marlboros. I miss you Gram. This is dedicated to you.

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