Ode to Gammy

“Ode to Gammy”

Grandmothers are very special people. Not only are they important by the virtue of the bloodline, but they are tasked with teaching grandchildren important life lessons. Today I’m going to share with you the lessons my grandmother, Gam, shared with me in hopes that they can serve you in life as well.

Following your heart and pursuing your passions

Gam grew up on a farm in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada with 10 brothers and sisters. She was in the middle. At age 16, she and her sister flew the coop to warmer climates and opportunity in Los Angeles. She left with $5 in her pocket.

Imagine: 16 years old, red hair, full of life and adventure and seeing the world. Not the concrete world we’re used to. A world full of possibilities, orange groves and merchants. That’s where she met my grandfather. He whisked her quickly away to Hawaii and they began their lives together.

Even though I wasn’t there to witness it – her sense of adventure and willingness to try something new, her actions of boldly following her heart and pursuing a life of passion is one of the greatest gifts she shared with me. She dared following her heart.


Anything is possible.

Imagine again: a red head, full of life and a thirst for adventure. What she expressed to the Universe came back to her. She had married to George Magoon (my grandfather) whose family purchased a white sand beach called Maihaiula just north of the Kona Airport on the Big Island for $1,000. Together, Gam and my grandfather would take their children there and give them a unique experience.

Do you think that at 16, raised on a farm in Winnipeg she ever could have imagined raising her children in paradise? Yet it happened. Because anything is possible. She taught me to keep an open and positive perspective toward everything.


Life is an adventure

I grew up on the mainland in Eugene, OR. Yet every summer, my mom would take us back to Hawaii to visit with my grandmother. We would travel to Maihaiula for a month at a time. Without electricity or television, we had to entertain ourselves as best we could. Luckily Gam taught me how to fish.

Maihaiula is a half moon bay. On the south side, are some lava rocks that overhang the ocean. I remember holding my grandmother’s hand as she showed me how to navigate through the deep sand, through the coconut groves with falling fronds, avoiding the kiawe thorns, how to walk on aa and puu lava as well as avoid menehunes.

Armed with a bamboo pole, straw hat, butter knife to pick off creatures for bait and a bucket, my grandmother showed me the best fishing hole. I’d plop my line into the water and within seconds bring up tropical fish. She taught me which fish were good to eat and which ones were too boney and how to unhook them and release them back.

Eventually I got bold enough to fish on my own. My grandmother had taught me how to navigate and deal with obstacles and how to fish. And in her gentle way, I understood what she taught me would serve as metaphor with how to deal with life. It should always be treated as an adventure.


Tackling whatever life may throw at you.

Eventually I graduated from my bamboo pole to a fishing rod. I started casting right in front of the house and quickly learned there are good and not so good places to fish. My line snagged, but I could feel a wiggle.

After 20 minutes, Gam came to check on me. She tried untangling the line as well but whatever I had caught was stubborn. Eventually, slowly, I brought in an electric eel and shrieked in horror. Gam didn’t bat an eye. Instead she grabbed the nearest rock and started bashing the head of the eel. “Your Auntie Denny (bash) LOVES (bash) eel. (BASH BASH BASH) She’ll eat it!”

That is one of my fondest memories of Gam. She taught me that no matter what life throws at you or you snag on your fishing rod, you can bash it with a rock and feed it to your auntie.


I am so thankful for my grandmother, Gam. She taught me to following my heart and pursuing my passions, anything is possible, life is an adventure and that I can tackle whatever life may throw at me.


Last week, Gam passed away at 97 years old. She lived an amazing life and was loved by all who knew her. And though her physical presence passed, her legacy continues on in me, in my siblings, cousins, mom, aunt and uncle and everyone else who had the good fortune of meeting her.

So when you find you have an opportunity to share a life lesson with someone, consider the impact you may have on that young persons life. Pass your legacy on. And remember, grandmothers are very special people. And Gam was no exception.


Published by jensharp13

I am a Boulder, Colorado based cycling coach that focuses on the whole athlete and the balance needed in order to perform at your best.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: