Grandmother Wisdom — Nicole Sallak Anderson

Nicole Sallak Anderson
7 min readJan 7, 2022

Last week, I was on the phone with my mom, giving her an update on life in the Anderson household. My husband had just headed out to care for his mother who wasn’t doing well, and I’d stayed behind because our dog, Evelyn, had been diagnosed with aggressive cancer, and I felt that leaving our eldest with a dog that could begin to die while we were out of town was wrong. I knew in my bones that Evelyn wasn’t going to make it much longer, and decided I needed to be here.

This had a certain sense of déjà vu to it.

My mom asked me how I was holding up so well. I thought about it for a moment. Was I holding up well? Or was I ignoring the pain as a means of coping? Deep within my heart I knew all was as it was to be. Not should be, for that has a qualification to it, but as it was. Life is full of events, but we are the ones who label them as challenges or pleasant gifts. Life is not so discerning. Life just is.

I told my mom this and she asked how I could feel that way. Doesn’t it feel more like punishment or a trial? Again, I thought about it again and again my heart answered with, “What will be, will be.”

She wondered how I could be at peace, and I told her that I’d learned this from my husband’s grandmother, Audrey. On her 100th birthday, I asked her what the secret to long life was. She answered, “Never take anything personally.”

Never take anything personally. Not the weather, not someone’s reaction, not death, not cancer, not a wildfire, not zoning laws, not anything. Life just is.

I’d heard another version of this from my own grandmother, Marian. I loved to sit in her living room and listen to her stories about her life. She lived through many hardships. I recall one day asking her how she got through all these trials-from being whipped by her own mother to losing her kid brother to a car accident when she was only 18-and she told me, “Life ain’t all rainbows and roses, kid.”

Marian wasn’t as kind and gentle as Audrey, but the two grandmothers carried great wisdom within them. Somehow, their words did more for my psyche than all the self-help books that lined my shelves. Theirs was a lived wisdom, one they discovered through their own journeys. They both aged remarkably, one living in her own…

Nicole Sallak Anderson

Novelist, California wildfire survivor, essayist. Find my latest novel, It Takes Two, a romance with a reincarnation twist @Amazon.