superPOWers: a letter about my grandmother


When I was a kid, only 1 superpower ever appealed to me: INVISIBILITY. I loved the idea of turning into vapor in an instant! It meant I would be able to witness events in secrecy, to observe people without having to know all their inner thoughts. In fact, reading minds was at the bottom of my list, as was predicting the future. But in Perry Moore’s YA novel Hero, my favourite character CAN see/know the future and also what others are thinking, a double-threat to insanity as far as I can tell.


The character is Ruth: a smoking, drinking, rough and tough-as-they-come superhero who also happens to be in the 8th decade of her life. When Thom Creed befriends her, he has little idea of how her mentorship will impact him because, in addition to her superpowers, she has the wisdom to use her powers only as necessary, and not to manipulate others. She is good and kind under that rough exterior and has 70 or so years of life experience on Thom. She’s the kind of mentor ANY superhero-in-training would want. Any person would want. And she inspired me to write about my mentor: my grandmother.

On October 14, 2013, my grandmother will turn 97 years old. For my entire life, she’s been a great source of inspiration and knowledge.

She was born on a farm in Southwestern Ontario in 1916, during World War I. Raised outside of Windsor, the closest school didn’t go to Grade 13 (yes, we had grade 13 in Ontario – until 2003 in fact), so my grandmother homeschooled herself in order to graduate high school and go into nursing. She was super smart, and loved everything academic. Well into her 80s she and I would complete the Reader’s Digest Word Power section, and she would KICK MY ASS because she knew all the Latin and Greek roots. It was embarrassing for me (an English teacher) to be trounced every week.

In the late 90s, I lived for a brief time in Windsor, and I would often go and visit my grandmother, who still lived alone after her husband’s death. There, she would patiently teach me the basics of bridge and make tea, and talk about her latest travels with her boyfriend Ed. I credit my desire to see the world to the postcards she always sent from her adventures. After, she would drive me home and she was a demon behind the wheel. Grandma blew through stop signs like they were about to explode. At the time she drove a 1978 Gold Mercury Grand Marquis (one of the biggest cars EVER made), complete with a CB radio. It was awesome – whenever I drove it, I felt like a pimp (blame the movies!)

8 years ago, my grandmother relocated to Toronto, after a minor stroke left her unable to live on her own. Since then, her ability to communicate and her mobility have decreased more and more every year. When I go visit her, I have no idea how much of me she remembers because she never says but I hope somewhere in there those memories are keeping safe.

Heroes come in all shapes and ages, but they all protect us and let us be who we really are. My grandmother has those powers, and I’m lucky to still have her in my life.


PS – thanks to Tara for the recommend of Hero! (



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Filed under Books, Letters, Young Adult

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