I have only been on this earth 34 years but I have came to realize that some people are timeless and others are ephemeral. Timeless people leave their mark, a legacy if you will. My Grandmother, Carole Lucille Hill, was timeless.
The issue with timelessness is that it stands the test of time, it’s neverending. I felt that way about my Grandmother’s life. I could never imagine a time where she would not be around. On the night of her death, I spoke to her. We made plans to get lunch together. She had some Dr’s appointments, which she didn’t seem to concerned with, and we were to spend time together the following week. Though she was 85, she kept busy. Not one fabric of my being would have believed that only an hour and a half later, she would pass away.
My Grandmother Carole stood just shy of 5 feet tall but that didn’t stop her from commanding the attention and respect of all of us. She taught me that family is family and business is business. She was a business woman who taught me a lot through her actions and the way she dealt with people. Besides being well known in Real Estate in her time, she founded the Modesto Apartment Association. Before her successful career in Real Estate, her and my Grandfather Kenneth Hill founded Valley Air Conditioning, a company they sold in the 70’s when my Grandfather wanted to retire from the business.
Though I have had many great influences in my life, my Grandmother has influenced me in so many ways, it would be hard to recount them all.
When I hear about business woman theses days complaining about equality I think about my Grandmother. She became a Real Estate Broker and had offices in Modesto and Escalon, CA. Real Estate brokerage at that time was a male dominant profession. She told me many stories about her professional dealings. She never seemed intimidated. She knew what she wanted to achieve and she did just that. These days there are many female Real Estate Agents and Brokers. This taught me that it did not matter who you are or where you came from, you can achieve what you want to achieve if you work hard. My Grandparents are the American Dream. I have been self employed for 15 years now and I credit my entrepreneurial spirit to her and my Grandfather.
When I was a kid, she would pay me to help her with yard work. She had this jar of quarters that she would pull out to pay me from after an afternoon of pulling weeds or spreading bark around newly planted plants. My brothers and I spent a lot of time at our Grandparents home in Escalon, CA. Though my Grandfather had retired from Valley Air, he tried his hand at almond farming. I have pictures of myself around the age of 3 years old driving an Almond Harvest Sweeper. We grew up around mechanics and motorized vehicles such as go-karts and dirtbikes. We would blast around their property. My Grandmother yelling, “Where’s your helmet?!”
My Grandmother was the original early adopter. In the early 80’s, I spent a lot of time on her computer, which ran DOS. I played Lode Runner on it and my brothers and I spend countless hours getting the Soundblaster Parrot to say funny things. They had a whole house stereo system which I loved to spend time playing with. My Grandmother ordered me business cards when I was 5, I wonder if she has one of those cards saved… Every few years she would get a new computer to stay current. Even though she had been using computers for ages, they always gave her trouble; or maybe she gave them trouble. As I printed a photo from her computer today, it printed quickly. My Grandfather told me how it would have taken her hours to get it to print right. There are countless things she taught me such as how to track stocks. As an 8 year old, I was tracking the stock prices of Coke and Pepsi manually on graph paper.
During a week long river rafting adventure through the Colorado River, I had appendicitis. This resulted in her and I being airlifted to a nearby hospital where I had surgery and spent a few days in recovery. This could have been a scary time for me but she created so many memories during that time. I don’t remember any fear, I just remember the laughs we had together.
As I grew into an adult, spending time with my Grandmother was always important to me. We would get lunch and catch up. Occasionally I would ask her business related questions I knew she could relate to in hopes to glean some of her wisdom. I cherish the time I got to spend with her. She would always give me money to pay for lunch and let me keep the change. She still did this into my adult years even though it was embarrassing and I could easily afford to pay for our lunch on my own. To her, I was still her little boy.
I also credit my “photographic eye” to being introduced to photography at such a young age. Back in the film days, my Grandmother would take pictures at the same rate we take pictures in the digital age. She would walk into the local photo lab with a ziploc bag full of film rolls to have developed. She was always the one behind the camera documenting everything we did. She did her best to avoid being in pictures. When we tried to turn the camera on her, she would bark at us. Together, we would take pictures of interesting mailboxes. I couldn’t have been any older than 5 years old when we started that. As she moved into the digital world, she would print just about every photo she took, as a full page photo. Instead of having ziploc bags full of film canisters she now had ziploc bags full of dry inkjet cartridges from printing photos.
When I opened my first retail business, I needed a loan to make an initial purchase to become a direct factory dealer. She offered to give me the loan but there was a contract I had to sign and repayment was to be prompt. I feel like she was harder to bank with than an actual bank would have been. I paid them back within 60 days for a $14,000 loan. What I did learn was that I should do my best to fund my own needs in business. Since that day I have funded all of my own ventures.
My Grandmother always gave it to me straight. If I was in the wrong, she would let me know. She had strong opinions and convictions. You always knew where she stood, even if you preferred not to know. She taught me that you should always find reasons to celebrate. As a family, we celebrate all birthdays and would find other reasons to go out and celebrate. Now with my own family, we have carried on the tradition. We love to celebrate. Though I have never been good at budgeting, she taught me that you should spend 10% of your money for life and enjoyment. The rest is for expenses, saving, investing or donating. My parents didn’t travel much, but my Grandparents made sure we were able to explore and try new things. If we said we didn’t like something, my Grandmother would say, “Try it, you’ll like it.”
When I was 17 years old, my Grandmother signed me up for a Dale Carnegie course so I could learn to be a better speaker. My Grandparents had me around their friends and business colleagues when I was young. Because of that exposure, I have always been able to talk to and relate with just about anybody.
My Grandparents believed in living life. As they got older, they did not travel as much, but my Grandparents have seen the world. They enjoyed this world while they could and they have hundreds of amazing stories to tell because of it. Much of who I am today is because of my Grandparents.
It has only been a few days since her passing and I still can not believe it. I never thought I would see a day where she would no longer be around. I am so fortunate that my kids got to spend the first few years of their lives knowing their Nanna Kaye. My Grandmother’s nickname was Kaye. Liam will remember his Nanna Kaye well. Cohen will probably have some memories of her when he grows up. Unfortunately, Emmy is a bit too young to have any memories at all, but we have photos of her being held by her Nanna who loved her so much. Emerson is the first Hill girl in the family. I know how much my Grandmother looked forward to taking Emmy out shopping once she was old enough.
The Hill side of my family does not really express feelings verbally, but I know the love my Grandmother had for me well. She was a very giving and loving person.
People like this are timeless. Though her Real Estate Agency is no longer, her legacy lives on. It lives on in me and what I will teach my children because of the influences she had on me. Many times she told me that I am living in more difficult times than she did. Even though she grew up in the depression, she would say that it is harder for today’s youth than it was back then. Come to think of it, I don’t ever remember her telling me stories about how hard she had it back in her day. She always had fun stories to tell about every situation. This is how I want to live my life. I want to live life and love those who are closest to me. Even as I write this, I feel like I still expect to get an email from her telling me that she enjoyed my latest blog post.
Thank you Grandma for the countless hours poured into me. I am who I am today because of you. I will spend the rest of my life celebrating you and the things I have learned from you.
This is a photo of my Grandmother Carole Lucille Hill holding my oldest son Liam at a small party we had for my Grandparents 65th wedding anniversary in 2011.