Saturday, May 26, 2012

granddaughter

[photo removed because i do that sometimes]

My boys are on the left, and I am sitting next to my maternal grandmother, holding an umbrella. She is 85. I didn't know her very well growing up; I have always lived far away from her. When I saw her in the past, she was always very busy taking care of her large family. She was cooking. She was cleaning. She was giving instructions. She was nonstop movement. She had 9 children. She has 41 grandchildren. She has another 41 great-grandchildren. I mean: I think she has another 41 great-grandchildren. She was The One who kept track of all the births and deaths. She was The One wrote everything down, and she was The One who recorded it in her yearly Christmas letter. When you called her, she updated you on how everyone else in the extended family was doing. Then she added your updates to her list, to be given to the next caller or visitor. She doesn't do that anymore. About 2 years ago, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She moved into assisted living. And she became, in her words, "lazy."

My aunt drove my grandmother to Colorado to visit her childhood friend. We met up with them on Monday afternoon. The boys played on a playground with my aunt and Fritz, while my grandmother and I sat on this bench and just...talked. I have never just talked with my grandmother. Just sitting, and just talking, I was just a granddaughter. It was a nice place to be: a very different place from being just a mom. There are many past details she remembers: She told me about the schoolhouse where she went to primary school. Thirteen kids, one teacher: Miss Elizabeth West. The little kids mispronounced it: Lizbett Wetts.  And then there were high school friends, who coincidentally shared the same surname that I now have.

"Grandma," I said, "did you know that's my last name now?"

"Oh!" She exclaimed.

I translated its meaning from the German.

"Well! I didn't know that!" We laughed.

I think about how her memories of childhood are so strongly with her. I think about how these are the very memories that my boys are making today and will spend the next decade making.

My grandmother was reliving moments from decades ago, but me? I was in the very moment of that very day. Our positions have flipped: for years, she recorded details about my life. And Monday, I was mentally recording her details.

They say children live in the moment and that, as parents, we should find our inspiration in this. But sitting with my grandmother, trying to hold on to all her details, I was not merely inspired, I was forced to be in the moment. Maybe that is because now, I'm just a granddaughter. I'm no longer specific facts to be recorded. And it was okay – no, it was more than okay – it was like being wrapped in a cozy blanket. It was a perspective and calm that I really needed. I'll take the Moment of Now with My Grandmother any time.


4 comments:

Katie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katie said...

Beautiful. What a gift that day was.

Pregnantly Plump said...

It sounds like a nice time. I'm sorry about your grandmother. My grandfather has Alzheimer's. He's not at that point anymore. I'm glad you got to enjoy talking with her.

twisterfish said...

How wonderful that you were able to spend this time together. Such a gift.