The extraordinary impact of an ordinary life

Like the well-tailored clothes she chose with charming regularity, my Grandma left a legacy of timeless elegance.

Yesterday would have been her 100th birthday and my mother urged us all to celebrate with a generous slice of chocolate fudge cake, her signature dessert. She also made perfect peach pie, bourbon balls and chocolate chip cookies, an impressive baking repertoire for any home cook but especially for my Grandma, who suffered from Type I diabetes and couldn’t eat any of it.

Grandma Fey served dinner at 6:15 every night, a full-course extravaganza that always included dessert.

How these people did not weigh 300 pounds a piece I’ll never know, because Grandma also cooked up a full course breakfast every morning included link sausage, buttered toast and scrambled eggs.

Grandpa liked to say that Dorothy wouldn’t take the garbage out without a pair of coordinating earrings and it’s true the woman loved fashion. She diligently supported both Pogue’s Department Store and Polly Flinders (two Cincinnati icons not coincidentally no longer in business.)

A proud and accomplished housewife, Grandma never held a job outside her red brick home on North Bend Road in Cincinnati. You can’t Google Dorothy Fey or read about her on Wikipedia.

Still, she lives on through the family she so clearly loved, an unintentional fame that seems therefore much more genuine.

Dorothy Fey’s life made an impact on this world. She served haddock every Thursday night (though every other Catholic ate fish on Friday). She taught her grandchildren how to play spoons and snuck them Chiclets gum during Sunday mass. She bought new sheets every December and placed them on the beds in her house for good luck every New Years Day.

She could do a full backbend down her living room wall.

We live in an achievement driven society, one that makes us frantic seekers of measurable success. In my Grandma, though, we can honor the intangible achievements that deem a life worthy — things like laughter and love, family and fun, sweetness and style.

Happy birthday Grandma.

I've used this picture before but I ahve to add it again. The heels! The pearls! The poses! The fact that this is my Grabdma's kitchen in Cincinnati, Ohio!
I’ve used this picture before but I have to add it again. The heels! The pearls! The poses! The fact that this is my Grandma’s kitchen in Cincinnati, Ohio! How were these women this slim when they ate so well? A mystery for the ages.
Here are my Grandma and Grandpa Fey with my brother and me.
Here are my Grandma and Grandpa Fey with my brother and me.
Grabdma used to decorate her fireplace with Christmas cards. She was a style icon.
grandma used to decorate her fireplace with Christmas cards. She was a style icon whose clothes, jewelry and, most importantly, recipes live on. Both of my daughters have worn dresses once worn by her grandma and we all enjoy her decadent chocolate cake.

10 thoughts on “The extraordinary impact of an ordinary life

  1. This reminds me of my grandmother. She is gone 31 years and I still miss her. They stayed so slim by never stopping. They were up cooking and cleaning all day. They burned every calorie they ate.
    She sounds like she was truly an extraordinary lady.

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