Everybody has or had grandparents, and everyone knows the important loss when they are suddenly gone. They can inspire us, lead us down a pathway of the past, they love us unconditionally, and are our biggest cheerleaders. So what happens when that leader of the family gets too old, and starts needing around the clock care, moves in with you, and is a shell of what they once were? You accept the responsibility and change your lifestyle, because thats what your grandparent would have done for you.
My grandmother married her high school sweetheart in 1945, and my mother came along in 1946. They lived on a farm in North Dakota raising wheat and small animals. A hard but fulfilling lifestyle. They moved to California some time in the late 50’s and settled into city living. Moving forward through time… My grandfather became ill with cancer and later died in 1991. Now, this was a shock to me! I was 6 years old and nobody had ever died before. It wasn’t something I ever thought would happen. My grandmother was inconsolable. I now know that it was the beginning of the end for my strong, loving grandmother. It was like all the life and love slowly drained out of her body over the years. A wound that never healed. After a couple of years, she moved to Arizona and met another man. A rich, but nasty man. He was good to her… not so good to me and other relatives. He hated us! We got in his way. Fine. So I grew up all my essential years with Nana.
Now nana was my fathers mother, and she was the Colonel wife. Strong and self-sufficient, because she raised her family on the backs of the U.S. Army. Her husband died when I was 2, never letting me get to know him. I’ve been told we would not have liked each other anyways. Nana lived a hard life too, but she never showed it. Aches and pains were suffered in silence and nothing but amazing stories came out of her mouth. She danced with Frankie Roosevelt, a clothing stealing deer, Pearl Harbor, a swimming cat! She was amazing. While I was in High school I spent every afternoon with her. Those were the good days. But as she got older, dementia set in and it all happened so fast. A hospital, hospice, holding her hand and telling her it’s okay to go. We said goodbye…. and she was gone. Her essence haunts me still.
By the time I was 25 and well on my way into Adulthood, Grandma from Arizona had lost yet another husband, and wanted to come back home and live amongst her family. This was… inconvenient. Stopping for a polite conversation over the phone was one thing but, seriously? I hadn’t seen the woman in years! So my family drove to Arizona, picked up all her stuff and tried moving her into a home for the care of elders. After two months there, she was NOT having that. Nobody dresses for dinner! The food is all mush and bland! People are dropping dead everyday! It smells funny! Okay okay okay. Then she moved in with my uncle and his wife. They proceeded to milk her like a cash cow until the tit shriveled up, never even cooking dinner for her. After two years of that madness…….. Here we are.
Due to unforeseen setbacks, I live at my parents house. And now grandma needs to live here too. So I gave up my room and all of my belongings to make space for her. The woman who didn’t seem to mind that she hadn’t seen her family in years. I was angry. But I did it for her anyway. It’s going nicely so far, except that she can’t do anything for herself. She complains all the time about how much pain she is in, about her dead cat, about how much money she has, about how cold it is all the time. So I go with it. I seem to have the patience of a saint when I with old people and little kids, (It’s the rest of you I can’t stand.) So every morning I wake up, make coffee, toast, and oatmeal and park her in front of the only t.v. in the house. She got me into her SOAPs now and I can’t stop watching them. I wait for her to go lay down again because of the pain and then we all walk on eggshells till she wakes up again. My mother keeps saying, “Who took my mother and replaced her with this complaining old lady?!” She control our lives now. We schedule things around her. She is oblivious to everything. And the worst part of all of it is, she so nice and kind! Her answer to any problem you have is JESUS. You can’t hate her because she is by definition, a sweet, little old lady! She drives all of us insane!
But for some reason… I have never raised my voice at her, I do her laundry when I don’t even do my own, same goes with making her bed and taking out her litter bin. I don’t understand my own actions anymore. I guess I love this woman who was never there for me like my nana was. I guess my bitterness towards her absence has found a place to hide deep inside me, and my capacity to forgive is bigger than I thought. I do drink more now… but that could just be a coincidence.