Some of my favorite childhood memories were of my grandmothers. Those two sweet ladies just loved to fuss over us whenever we visited.
Mamaw Bridges lived in a small, old house in Crothersville, Indiana. Grandma Riley lived a little over five miles away in Austin. They were both small, rural communities.
Their houses were very simple. Papaw Bridges used a pot-bellied, coal burning stove to heat the entire house.
I loved visiting in the winter. In the wee hours of the morning, I would barely wake up to the sounds of Papaw rattling the stove to wake up the embers. Ashes were replaced with large chunks of black coal that had been carried in from the coal shed. It was a simple little house and a simple, loving life.
In the early 1950s, when nature called in the middle of the night, we had to take a short walk down a short path to their outhouse. I never made that little hike alone.
My Mom always went with me because I just knew that some horrific beast lived in the shadows of that little, stinky shack.
I grew up being cared for by these women – my grandmothers and my Mom. They were a major influence in my early life. Life was shaped by those wonderful, loving women.
Mom was a stay-at-home mother. She saw us off when we left for school. She was there when we got home. As soon as our chores were done, Mom would have a snack ready for us.
Grandma Riley was brilliant at making snacks, especially gingerbread. She also made what she called hand-pies.
Her homemade crust was filled with spiced apples from the short, gnarly trees in her backyard. The entire world would take on the sweet odor of apples and cinnamon as they baked.
Words cannot describe the joy of warm gingerbread, hand-pies and cold milk in grandma’s kitchen.
Those women shaped my early life.
Years later, when I started working in healthcare, my first job was at Miami Valley Hospital. My instructor in respiratory therapy was named Ruby. My first immediate supervisor was Donna. They were incredibly smart, caring women. They became my role models for how to provide the best of patient care.
They also made me smile every day.
They trained us to do incredibly complex, lifesaving work, but they also taught us that patients need kind words and that warm, genuine smiles can lift a patient’s spirits and improve their day as much as a breathing treatment.
From April 1970 until I retired from healthcare in 2006, I had the honor of working with many, many dedicated women. From Miami Valley Hospital to Memorial Hospital of Union County and finally here at Clinton Memorial Hospital, strong women influenced my career and my life.
In those early years, healthcare was a female dominated industry. Even today, women account for around 90 percent of all nurses and healthcare providers.
Throughout my career, most of my co-workers and many of my supervisors were females. It was an honor to be associated with so many wonderful people.
Last week was the annual observance of International Women’s Day. IWD has been celebrated for over 100 years. It is a global day of celebrating the social, economic and cultural achievements of women. Their achievements have been immense.
From the year 1903, when Madame Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, women have demonstrated strength, intelligence and the ability to make the world a better place.
Women deserve equal rights, equal recognition and equal pay for the work they do.
Thankfully, things are improving. Hopefully, when my granddaughters enter adulthood and the workplace, they will have every opportunity to achieve and succeed.
My youngest granddaughter is preschool aged. My oldest granddaughter will graduate from high school this year. They deserve the best of educational opportunities and job opportunities.
They will always deserve to be well paid for the work they do.
We are blessed to be surrounded by some amazing women. I know that I’ve been blessed by wonderful, loving grandmothers, my own blessed mother, my wife, daughter and six beautiful, talented granddaughters.
Now, I can’t wait to watch my beautiful granddaughters break into the world.
Look out world. They’re coming.
Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.