Monday, August 8, 2011
My Grandmother, My Friend
My Grandmother passed away this morning. I am sad for me and happy for her; she struggled a very long time with Alzheimer's Disease and I am glad that her suffering is now over and that she can rest in peace.
This woman was such a huge part of my life; she practically raised me. I wrote something that I intend to read at the funeral this week, which I would like to share with you now. I actually wrote it a while ago...knowing what was coming; dreading it with every fiber of my being. My hope is that it will catch the essence of who she was and who she will continue to be in my heart.
My grandmother is one of my very best friends. Always has been, and I consider myself a lucky girl, as I’ve had her around for quite a while.
My grandmother is also incredibly rigid. There’s a certain way things should be done. You can put something here; but not there. She’s an old-school Grandma, and she lives by her own set of rules, some of which I don’t understand.
I remember challenging her not long after my Grandfather had passed. They had a beautiful sun porch on the back of their house where we would often gather for breakfast in the Spring, or a game of cards and a pitcher of iced tea in the Summer. I can still remember Friday night sleepovers at my Grandparent’s house. I would wake up to the scent of fresh-baked muffins, and following the smell straight out to the sun porch, I would find my grandparents, lingering over a second cup of coffee.
“There she is!” My grandfather would call out, as I padded my way onto the porch and then flung myself into his lap. “We thought you would sleep the day away!”
He would tease me as my Grandmother set me up for breakfast, and we would share the morning together as the breeze shuffled through the open windows.
This ritual lasted for years and stays with me to this day.
My grandfather died when I was twenty-one years old. Once my grandmother was alone, I began to spend more time with her, getting to know her as an adult. I can still recall the day I let my frustration boil over: I gave it to her a little about her long list of “shoulds.”
“You never even sit out on the sun porch anymore! I don’t understand you! We used to sit out there all the time! Why are you acting like this?” In my youth, I was passionate about my own list of “shoulds.”
She took a long moment, a deep breath, and looked pointedly at me before she answered my question.
“Because I no longer have my friend.”
A knife to the heart would have caused less pain than that one statement and all that it had to say. Even at twenty-one I understood the gravity of her statement; sure, she missed her husband, but after fifty years of marriage it boiled down to this: he was her very best friend. It spoke volumes about the relationship they shared.
I learned a lot about marriage that day. I laid off my Grandmother and let her grieve, even as the sun porch stayed shuttered.
My grandmother continued to teach me things, in ways big and small. Her actions often spoke louder than her words. And her rigidity came in handy when it was time to do things like bake. She would often remind me that baking was not like cooking; the recipe had to be done a certain way, the measurements exact, so that the cookies would come out just right. She had her quirks, but I put up with them, because I loved her completely.
They say my grandmother has Dementia now, but I hate that word. Dementia sounds demented. So I use the term Alzheimer’s to describe where she’s at today…and I cry when she can’t see my face. We no longer bake together, but I like to talk about baking, and even as she loses her language skills, I see that the stories of the things we used to do make her smile. It’s not the same, but I convince myself that we love each other just the same, and that’s what matters.
The other day I stopped by her place to visit. She had a hard time placing me, and then she struggled to form words. I would jump in and help her, and tell her funny things as we sat and watched someone cook on television. I squeezed her hand before I left, hoping that she could sense my energy and know that I loved her no matter what.
I got in the car and acknowledged the profound sadness I felt as I watched her struggle. I’m sad today, I thought, Because I no longer have my friend.
Posted by SCW Stella at 7:38 AM