Sunday, July 19, 2009

Angel on Earth

I know I have written about my great-grandma before, but, here I go again. My great-grandparents were the solid foundation for my youth. My mom was very young when she had me and she worked tirelessly, multiple jobs, to provide me with everything she never had. I was dressed nicely, in gymnastics, multiple dance classes, played sports, went out with friends, and on and on. Guess who took me to all of these things, who raised me in large portion...yep, my great-grandparents. They loved me beyond measure and even though they had lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I always felt extra-special to them because I was with them so much.

My grandpa had his issues, including chain-smoking, a bit of cleptomania, and prostate and memory issues at the end...but he was a very loving man and he doted on me, perhaps to the extreme. I cannot remember a single softball game that I had that he did not attend, and I played every summer, even through college. After his health declined to the point that walking to the bleachers was tough, he and grandma would get to the field early enough to park along a fence in the outfield and would honk for me when I got a good hit or made a good play (I pitched).

Grandma was a housewife that married wayyyy to young and never worked outside the home. However, I have never met a more frugal, thrifty, and creative woman who always managed to make her own spending money and never failed to try to give it to me. Grandma and I have this special relationship to this day. She nicknamed me Poodie at about 1 week old and she and most of my family still call me this to this day. Grandma taught me so much, things books and education never can.

I visited Grandma yesterday when I was back in my hometown (which is now more than 3 hours from our current home). She will be 92 in September and I make it a priority to see her when I am in town, unfortunately, it is not often enough for her or for me. Her daughter, my grandma (with whom I am not nearly as close...some issues there), was there at the nursing home where Grandma has lived for about 4 years now when I got there with my 3 cherubs. It was nice to see her, but in the beginning she didn't know who I was for a few seconds, but then you could see the recognition hit her eyes and she smiled. She was not having a very good day my grandma said and within minutes, my great-grandma was crying that it was so good to see me and the kids. Grandma also told me that she had been crying earlier because they had made her eat lunch and it is hard for her to swallow and so she found the nursing home staff to be mean. Seeing my great-grandma cry, for any reason, was heart wrenching and all I wanted to do was take away her pain.

I sit here trying to come to terms with the circle of life and how child-like my grandma is now and wishing I was there for her like she was for me when I was the helpless one. She still has my unconditional love and my prayers every single day, but she doesn't have my presence and for that my heart is heavy. I am not in a position where I can quit my job and care for her full-time, but I kind of wish we lived in a society where this was expected and just happened within families as it does in many Asian cultures.

My great-grandma is truly my angel on earth, her love and kindness, her hospitality to all those who entered her home, her laugh, her gentle nature, her amazing cooking, every single thing about her and how she always was brings me happiness. It is very hard for me to reconcile her current being, one I know she is not happy in most of the time, with how she wants to be and how unfair this part of life really is. I don't want my grandma to go, although I know it is inevitable that we all will pass on some day. But, I also don't want her to suffer. An emotional paradox. For now, I will remember that twinkle of remembrance and happiness that she rewards me with when I get to see her and I will cherish her for everything that she symbolizes to me.



Dedicated said...

I know exactly what you are saying. While my Gramps was in the hospital, he acted normal with all the nurses and staff when they came in his room. I never saw him treat anyone different. He would smile and say hello, showing a great interest in them and spreading joy.

Then one day I am on the phone with him and he cuts me off abruptly saying he has to go to bed now. He has never went to bed before 11 or 12. I knew something was off.

The next day, I am in his room and a gal comes in all smiles and happiness and my Gramps acts as normal. When she walks out, he says - "She is mean." I have never heard him say that, so I pursued this and found she was treating him badly.

It is such a place of helplessness. We, I or my brother or my gramps neices were with him everyday and they still treated him poorly. I wanted him so much to come live with me and was even talking it over with DH.

I too wish we were just expected to care for our elders.

Anonymous said...

What a blessing, to have your great grandma and grandpa be such a huge part of your life growing up. I wish I could give my kids that opportunity with their great grandparents. As it is, we're lucky to see them once a year. I'm so glad you and your kids got to visit your Great Grandma yesterday.