By my side.

I was 14 the first time I saw my grandma, I mean really saw the person that my late grandma was. It was at a tram station in the center of Vienna. She held my brother, who was about two years old on his hand and she was waiting at the station for me. I saw her long before she could see me and I remember thinking, that her life-experience was written on her face. Oh the life she had, she didn’t travel the world, build houses or went on crazy adventures but she lived through the aftermath of World War 2, she build a home with her own two hands for herself and her four children and she experienced things, that I wouldn’t want to wish on anyone.

She wasn’t very tall, but sturdy, had short dark redish hair which she dyed regularly. She had piercing blue eyes, always assessing the situation, making sure that everyone was taken care of. My grandma was a hard worker, ever since she was 16 she worked and she worked every single day in her life, until she got sick. Then she stopped working and tried to enjoy life as much as possible, which in her health conditions, wasn’t very enjoyable.

She didn’t know it, but she was a strong woman, a wonderful person and most importantly, I loved her to pieces. Her and I did not see eye to eye on anything, really. Love, live, school, the world – we couldn’t be further apart in each and everyone of these aspects but she loved listening to my worldview. She loved it, when I read her my poems, when I told her about the places I wanted to visit, when I painted her a picture of my future. She treasured these moments, not once did she diminish my dreams, no matter how absurd they sounded, she was always on my side.

She would always take my side, when I had an argument with my parents, even if she knew that I was on the wrong. She would be the referee in countless discussion with by older brother, but with a twinkle in her eye usually supporting whatever madness had befallen me. And when I told her, that I was going places, that I was going to conquer the world, she would root for me, although in secrecy, thinking that I would never find out, I knew she wanted me to stay close, so she could be by my side, watching me, protecting me.

That’s really it, by my side. She wanted to be there and protect me and I wanted her by my side through all the big steps in my life. I wanted her at my wedding, I wanted her to hold my children, I wanted her to be part of the crazy life that I am living now, but none of these things came true. She passed long before any of these things had materialized. But there isn’t a single day in my life when I don’t think of her, when I don’t miss her, when I don’t wish that I could call her and listen to her raspy voice.

As her birthday is nearing, it would have been her 70th, I can’t help but wonder if through all the times, that she was on my side, if I was enough at her side, by her side? All to often I would, I would disagree with her on so many things, but yet, she would stay by my side, always. It still breaks my heart, knowing that on her birthday I won’t be able to run up the stairs to her apartment on the fifth level, ring on her doorbell and hug her tight as she would usher me to my favorite spot, where we would chat about the world and have a cup of coffee.

Her birthday was March 9th, but to me, her real birthday was always March 8th, because she was the type of woman, that started the Women’s March, fighting for the generations to come. Making sure, that women like me had a fighting chance, shattering the glass ceiling. All the battles she had fought for herself, her family and equality left visible lines on her face, the lines that show a true spirit, a true fighter, one without weapons, one without guns, whose real only weapon is love and hope. So, on this March 8th, it is time to fight louder than we have in a long time. It’s a day to honor all the wonderful women in our lives and make sure that they are treated with respect and equality and most importantly, that we do it without putting ourselves down or degrading other minorities.

This is for my grandma, because I promised her the day she couldn’t walk anymore, I would walk for her. The day she couldn’t fight anymore, I would fight for her. She might not be physically by my side anymore, but I know that she is always on my side.

So this 8th of March, go and march with women from all walks of live. This march is for everyone, who at one point in their live has been treated unfairly, because they “don’t fit in” with whatever idea someone else has of them.  Know that you don’t walk alone, just as my grandma didn’t walk alone. Know that you don’t fight alone, just as I never fought alone, because of great leaders like my grandma, know that someone is always on your side and walks by your side.

heforshe – A Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality

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