Tonight is filled with a lot of raw emotion, so if you are looking for something uplifting and light, you might want to stop reading right here. Today was emotional for me. I have been thinking a lot about my grandmother. She is still living and one of the most important people of my life. She is 83 years old and has moderate to severe dementia. She has reached a point where it is hit and miss as to whether she knows your name and it is a bonus if she can remember how she knows you. She was/is the person in my life who told me I could do it (no matter what it was) when the rest of the world was telling me I couldn’t do it. She used to have “Carpe Diem” written on her checks because she really believed it. Now, sadly, she doesn’t remember that simple phrase that was placed on her checks almost twenty years ago. But I do.
My grandmother was raised in an orphanage (which is a completely separate post) because her father died of black lung when she and her twin brother were nine months old. My great-grandmother, who was left in a wicker basket with a note, was left on a door step when she was three days old. With my great-grandfather having passed, my great-grandmother was not able to keep my grandmother and her two brothers because she was too poor to support them. So she placed them in an orphange, and I have discerned from my grandmother’s stories over the years, it was horrible and necessary all at the same time.
After my hearing today, I was invited to go to Krebs Oklahoma for lunch. Hardy har har. uh no. oh wait. yes. In the process of cleaning out my grandmother’s house I was able to salvage one of the few pictures of my great grandmother and great-grandfather – it was published in the local Krebs newspaper proudly announcing the baptism of my grandmother and her twin brother. I had been able to recall the small detail from the newspaper article in that moment my grandmother was born in Krebs. I absolutely will take the trip to eat italian food in Krebs.
So off I go with a few of my colleagues, following a caravan of cars to travel ten miles further to the birth place of the most important woman in my life. The town is run down and is poor- My senses are heightened, perhaps I am trying to tap into my ancestry and allow my mind to wander regarding the possibilities fo where they used to live and whether my grandmother even knew she was born in Krebs. The food was awesome to say the least. Strange occurrence-the girl who served us looked just like me. promise. It was creepy. So creepy I couldn’t even ask her to take a picture. We could have been sisters. It was verrrrrrry strange. I promise. She looked very much like me. I’m not even kidding.
I drove back home with all sorts of remodeling on my mind, looking forward to moving towards putting the new flooring in, and even perhaps placing the furniture back in the rooms before the beginning of next week. I stop at the flooring store where I have a lead on the out of stock flooring that we were supposed to be getting. Ugh. I get home and let me just sum this part up. My husband took the liberty to instruct the texture people to go ahead and redo the already just finished texturing. Like it was already painted. and he had them redo it. and Redo it they did to the 1960’s with big gloppy loads of mud and a little feather and fan action. EXCUSE ME….DID I MISS THE MEMO? THE MEMO WHERE YOU SENT OUT SOMETHING SAYING WE HAD CHANGED THE PLAN? To say I was or am upset is a complete understatement. In fact I am pretty sure it will be the understatement of the whole entire year, and it is only of course February 16, 2012. I was so upset and disappointed I decided to load up and go see my grandmother.
The shrunken lady who came to the door of her assisted living apartment was playful as she had heard my youngest on the other side of the door knocking and saying “grandma?” “ohhhhhhh grandma??” She is so little now, small and vulnerable. She gets irritated easily when she realizes she can’t remember what happened earlier in the day. She asked me who my number 3 child’s brothers were. I pointed to the wall where we had taped number 1 child and number 2 child’s school pictures with their names underneath them. As I watched her go through a photo album with my number 3 child on her lap, I was grateful and sad all at the same time.
She had been my rock for almost my entire life. I told her everything. I wanted to tell her right then of the struggles of January and how much grief had come into our home because a friend of my number 1 child had shot and killed himself at the young age of barely 14. How I had to parent my children through suicide- how number 1 had just played football with this beautiful kid the afternoon of his death. I wanted to talk parenting with her, marriage with her, politics and my difficulties of semi-sort of losing someone close to me. I wanted to talk religion and soul talk with her, so she could do what she had done hundreds of times before, which was to give me a scripture to study, or a life story or wise words to contemplate. I wanted to tell her about my trip to Krebs, wanted to be in her home where she would cook something or watch british comedies to stop all the noise in my life.
But as I looked at her it hit me like the same ton of bricks that hits me over and over and over when I realize that, for the most part, that is gone. The grief that comes from losing someone slowly. One piece at a time. We spent the rest of the evening looking through pictures, we did a small puzzle, and she talked about what she wants to do when she gets home and what kinds of food she is going to get when the kids come over.
She is not going home. I used to be dedicated to telling her the truth about how it wasn’t safe for her to stay at home anymore. Now I go along with her and fantasize about the dream of her returning home and I go right along with her.
There no longer is a need to contradict this hope. It is not necessary.
As I got ready to leave, I was almost desperate to share my current struggles, my life with her. I absolutely hungered for her wisdom. I wanted her to feed me spiritually like she had so many, many times. I even went as far to ask her if she likes to pray the rosary- she didn’t really respond. But to no avail there was nothing- until something caught my eye.
For the last few weeks I have been trying to figure out a way to incorporate the fruits of the spirit in a piece of artwork for me to hang in my house. I have looked at a few things online and just gave up until things are more settled. I saw a beautiful poster with the fruits of the spirit in my children’s godparents house. I had never, never, never, never ,never heard my grandmother speak about the fruits of the spirit-until tonight. Above the pictures of my children this was at the top.
My instant thought was thank you god. I knew that I knew.
As I kissed her and hugged her and kissed her again, she said to me “you sure are growing up, becoming a nice young lady now and you are so smart”- I told her that no matter what she forgets, to never forget that I am the person I am today because of her.
As I walked away choking back tears, I think she had forgotten who I was, as I am today, a grown woman with three children- and she was seeing me as a little girl stuck maybe twenty years ago.
As I am writing these words, I am thinking …. you know what? She saw me for EXACTLY what I was tonight- a little girl scared to lose her grandmother.