Thursday, November 15, 2007

Great Grandmas

My son is totally blessed. He has four great grandmothers. 3 are in amazingly good health for being 89, 90 and 93 years old,. They still drive themselves everywhere, live independently, and are feisty and very much alive. The 4th great grandma has middle stage Alzheimers.

We see Grandma H pretty much weekly. She is my husband's paternal grandma, and lives near us, just around the corner from my in-laws. We eat dinner with her once a week: usually I can avoid it half the time--work often interferes as I work in the evenings, but my husband and son go. Every time it is the same. She doesn't know where she is, but she remembers our names. She is in failing health, and cries every time she leaves us because she is afraid she won't see us again...not that she'll die necessarily, but that we will forget her like she sometimes forgets us.

It's a tough relationship. When she was younger, she was quite amazing (she still is, I know). A college graduate who married a chicken farmer, she worked and worked until they sold the farm. She then returned to her passion, French (her college major), and became a French teacher in a local high school. About 5 years ago, she had trouble remembering where she was every once in a while, and my inlaws moved her to close by their home, and with full time care, so that she could be comfortable and safe.

Grandma H takes tremendous delight in my son. She has one game that she plays with him: Let Me Eat Your Food. She says, "mmmmm. That looks delicious. Can I have a taste?" When he was younger, he would just look at her, perplexed, with his brow furrowed. He didn't understand why she would ask this when she had a plate of food in front of her. Now, at almost 3, he says, "Grandma, you have food. You don't want mine. Eat yours." He has figured out that she has her quirks, and has learned that it is a silly game, but he doesn't really want to play. Ever.

Some day, Grandma H, and the other grandmas, will all die. In fact, we will all die eventually. I hope that my son has some enduring memories of his great grandmas...even the silly dinnertime games. I had only one great grandparent who lived into my lifetime, my great grandfather Max. He died when I was in 4th grade, and I remember it very clearly. I loved him very much and found him fascinating, with his unusual hats, always with a pipe, and just very, very different from little me. I want this generation of family matriarchs to live, to live healthy lives, long enough for my son to create some very real and lasting memories of them to share with his great grandchildren. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by these four extraordinary women and to have their example very much present as I raise my son.

In our living room, we have a picture of Grandma H and her brother sitting on their on their front stoop--she is probably 6 and he is probably about 10. I have pictures, in fact, of all of my grandparents and even my great grandparents, all over my home, because seeing them fosters the sense that they are very much present in our lives. It is so important to me that my son knows where he came from and who loves him. And to always be surrounded by memory.

Hence, dinner with Grandma H. I might suffer through it, but every time I remember what she can't. Memories are made in each of our interactions. Let's hope it lasts until she's at least 120.

1 comment:

Maya said...

I'm going through the same thing with my daughter's paternal grandmother, who suffers from mild dementia. Of course, we see her only when we get to NYC. I'm so envious of you for the other grandmothers! I miss mine terribly--they were incredible women.