Life Lessons from My Grandmother

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My grandmother, Irene Flint Roberts, ran the family from her Lazy Boy chair. If the phone wasn’t pressed against her ear, it was within arm’s reach, in case she had something to say. It didn’t matter the time of day.

We can learn a lot from our grandparents, and I learned plenty from Gran, which is what I called her. She called me Man, because I was a large baby, just not as large as my uncle James, whom she called Man-the-Man. This story isn’t about nicknames, though. It’s a story about how Gran influenced my life.

Her words still ring in my ears. Gran had a loud voice that carried through the walls of her little house on top of a hill in Atlanta. She was a natural leader and a social butterfly. Gran was the kind of person who wasn’t shy about telling the butcher exactly how thick to cut the bacon. She also was the person everyone called when they had trouble. Gran was never too busy to listen and help sort out the bumps in the road.

When she wasn’t holding court from her Lazy Boy, you’d find her in the kitchen. I spent many summer days right there with her, mesmerized that she could make biscuits rise so high and whip up the best cornbread you’ve ever tasted, all without a recipe. She taught me to cook by mind and taste.

She taught me spiritually. Gran liked to smoke Captain Black tobacco in her pipe in the evening and would send up her own troubles for the Lord to help her resolve.

She taught me perseverance and trust. When I was a teenager and did something wrong – and I got into trouble often – she might have stern words for me, but then she would add: “Never forget you are somebody.”

Gran helped build my confidence. Whatever the situation was, she’d tell me that it was small and nothing in the grand scheme of the world. I understood from her, there’s nothing I can’t overcome.

“You continue to do what you need to do, and you will figure out this thing called life,” Gran would tell me.

Gran taught me to think. My sister Nicole and I spent summers with Gran while Mom worked for a pharmaceutical company in Kalamazoo. We moved from Atlanta to Kalamazoo when I was 7, but Atlanta was my first home. As soon as school let out for the summer, I couldn’t wait to get back to Gran’s.

She’d wake us up early in the morning, sometimes as early as 5 a.m., and she’d say: “Get up and get something on your mind.”

Now, when I was 8 or 9, I had no idea what she was talking about. From her, though, I grew to understand the importance of putting your mind to work, being productive, building your own legacy.

She taught me the importance of caring for others and for your family. She taught me, if you have the ability to help, then it’s your responsibility to help.

Gran is the reason nearly 10 years ago, I gave up a career in sales and business and went to work for a nonprofit that improved the quality of life of older adults.

When I got the chance to come to Indianapolis and lead the largest nonprofit in the state serving low-income seniors and people with disabilities, I knew this was the right time and the right place for me. It’s an exciting time to be at CICOA, and I want to help this organization grow and thrive in a new decade. Every morning, I wake up and get something on my mind, knowing I can do a little bit better today than I did yesterday. When I walk in the office, I carry my binder with Gran’s photo tucked safely inside, a constant reminder of the life lessons she taught me.


CICOA President and CEO Tauhric Brown
Tauhric Brown

As President and CEO, Tauhric Brown uses his strategic vision and experience in the elderly and disability service industry to expand CICOA services and collaborative partnerships to better meet the needs of the vulnerable populations we serve. Before joining CICOA, Brown served as the chief operating officer for Senior Services, Inc. in Kalamazoo, Mich. His career started in the U.S. Army, and then he became a successful owner/operator for a multi-carrier wireless retail company. Inspired by his family and upbringing, he made the switch to the nonprofit world to fulfill his dream of improving the lives of others.


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