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Remembering Grandma: my Nasty Woman muse

On Sunday my cousin, my aunt and I walked into the ocean to hand my grandmother’s ashes to the waves. (I’m on the right, the one who opted not to pack a bathing suit.)

Grandma was the matriarch of the family. Now the three of us share that role together.

For many decades Grandma (who was a pioneer in American Modern Dance), was teaching geriatric water aerobics at the Hollywood YMCA. Of that class, Grandma would tell me that Americans are “too uptight” and need to use their pelvises more.

About two years ago a new manager at the Y suggested she refrain from saying “Fuck.”

My grandmother responded “Fuck that” and quit.

Her departure caused a near riot at the Y. They begged her to come back. Grandma declined. Her reasons were:

1) She was neither Young, Male, Christian, nor an Association.

2) She liked sleeping in.

That’s how bad ass she was.

She did her time as the good daughter, the dutiful and abused wife (her first husband was a great artist and a terrible husband), and came out the other side as a pretty radical stand for honesty, love, and self-determination.

Here’s a photo of grandma on her 93rd birthday, October 2016. We had watched Hillary Clinton’s 3rd debate against the sexual predator. I asked grandma if she identified herself as a nasty woman, like Hillary. She said, “Very nasty.”

In the last couple of months, as she entered hospice (she was super clear that she was ready to die), my childhood friend Kevin flew down to Los Angeles and recited to her a beautiful passage from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, all about reuniting with Divine Consciousness after death. (He recited it at her memorial. I wish I had the text.)

Grandma listened patiently to him before responding:

“BULLSHIT! Life is about experience. We have lots and lots of experiences. We want to have lots of experiences. And then we’re dead.”

She then took him through a laughing exercise to cheer him up. That’s grandma.

An artist, an activist, and an adopter of children and adults who didn’t know they needed another mother or grandmother until she claimed them as her own… Grandma was an intersectional Nasty Woman in the most glorious, proud, take-no-shit tradition of women who pave the way for future generations of empowered women and men.

Her name was Constance Spriestersbach.


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