Monday, March 10, 2008

Frailty, Thy Name is Woman

My grandmother has moved to a new independent senior living complex. The good news is that she is no longer in the outer boonies –she is now in the “inner” boonies. It’s still a schlep, but the drive is a half-hour shorter for me and Mr. Random.

This place has better security, it has more activities for the residents and the apartment my grandmother is much larger, more spacious and more light-filled than her old one. In fact, I would argue that it is too large because her furniture now seems tiny and sparse in the big open space of her combo living room/dining area/kitchen and the expanse also gives the illusion that she is smaller and frailer than she truly is.

And seeing that makes me sad. Each time I see her, it’s like she moves a little slower and she’s shrunken a little more. She now walks slowly and gingerly with a cane – this being a woman who used to walk for miles back and forth across Philadelphia dragging her two little granddaughters behind her. I remember her standing strong (not tall, she’s always been kind of short) and being fearless, and now . . . while she still has a lot of spunk in her and her mind is still very sharp, something about her is a bit more tentative and she has to depend on more people to help her do many things that she used to just charge ahead and do herself.

Seeing my grandmother, helping her out when I can, brings me face-to-face with what it means to age and what it means to watch someone you love slowly decline. I am very lucky – my grandmother will turn 90 this year and I will have spent most of my life with her living within a 50 mile radius of me. She has always been in my life, one way or another, and I can’t imagine her not being here - being cranky and crotchety and hating people, while having a heart of gold.

At least I know that we have a good relationship. That I am still close to her. That I am one of the few family members that she relies on and talks to on a regular basis. It means a lot to me and I think it means a lot to her. My only regret is that I don’t have any children of my own yet for her to put her blessing.

When my grandpa died 21 years ago, it hurt. A lot. And it still hurts in some ways, but I’ve moved on and try to do the best I can to honor his memory. But my grandma? Oy! The dread I have! There are some situations where you won’t know how you’ll react until it happens but this is something . . . I don’t want to know right now. Yes, I am trying to be rational and I know that she has lived a full, exciting life and she is tired and has ailments and has already told us that when she goes she doesn’t want any fuss but to just put her “in a Hefty bag by the curb.” (No, seriously! She’s said that several times. She has a wicked sense of humor . . .) I know a lot of things intellectually. I get it. But still . . .

So a cloud hovers heavily on my brain, even though it shouldn’t. Every time I see her I hug her tight and tell her I’m so glad I could be there. What more could we do in this life that would be more important than taking the time to appreciate the moments we have remaining and making the most of those?

1 comment:

Virginia Gal said...

we are totally twins, I am the same way with my maternal grandfather. I can't even allow my brain to go to a world where he isn't in it. He and I are so much alike and I've always felt closest to him...and I bet you're like me, you just want to hug your grandparents and put some magical spell over them to never ever go away?

Aye...perhaps we can start a support group for grandkids who can't imagine living without their grandparents.