My maternal grandmother was born before the turn of the century on a hundred acre farm. She was the oldest with six boys following her, and, finally, another baby girl. She loved to recall this: “I’m not bragging, but I did as hard work as those boys did. I put my arms around many a barrels of potatoes and we’d roll them up onto the truck.” 🙂 She was a sweetheart.
She came to live with us a few years after my grandfather died. I don’t have very many memories of her when she was still mobile, however from age 11 until I was 23, I would assist in caring for her as an invalid. She had hip replacement surgery in 1981 and never regained strength enough to walk. We did everything for her. Our mom was a registered nurse by trade, and my younger sister and I were her little assistants, who really did too much at such an early age.
She read her Bible every day and I am convinced she thrived as long as she did because she drew strength from the Scriptures. For many years, she enjoyed exchanging letters with her sister until she got to where she repeated herself many times over and couldn’t formulate a comprehensive letter. As time wore on, her dementia worsened. She didn’t recognize our mother, her daughter. She would say, “I know you’re someone in the family, but I can’t place who you are.” I know that deeply saddened our mother. Usually, she knew who my sister and I were because we were always close by. We would fix her hair and even polished her nails on occasion. We loved her dearly.
We were never told, “Listen, we need to love grandmother and respect and care for her, okay, girls?” We were shown by mere example. We had such a loving and nurturing mother who displayed day in and day out what love looks like. She showed us how to care for our grandmother and the value of family. She demonstrated the deep love and regard she held for her mother by her care and compassion. We could do no less.
My grandmother would tell us she saw a horse on the rooftop of the house across the street or a little boy playing the piano at her bedside. How she got these visions in her head, I will never know. The aging mind can be a scary place. I can recall her reading little preschool books to my oldest and at some point, he drifted into another room mid-story. She’d continue reading the story and enjoying looking at the bright pictures until the book was completed, just as a preschooler might. That saddened me. Although it illustrates how in many respects the elderly become as babies once again. I wish I knew why.
(It’s so important for the mind to remain engaged in life. Once mobility challenges arrive, it seems the mind is susceptible to rapid decay.)
Despite all the countless hours and days spent caring for my grandmother during those years, she will forever hold a special place in my heart. She was tough, tenacious, but, most of all, she was a godly woman after God’s own heart. She grew up in the Methodist church and attended the same little, country church her entire life until she moved in with us. Her ancestor’s names are inscribed on a few stained glass windows. It was where she worshipped with her parents and seven siblings as a young child, and, in due course, with her late husband and children. It was a special place to her. And, now, it is where we laid her earthly body to rest twenty-one years ago. She was ninety-eight.
My grandmother saw a lot of changes in her lifetime, for sure. She was fond of saying, “Times bring changes, honey.” Haha. The house my mother grew up in had no indoor plumbing until she was sixteen. There was no central A/C or heating. They had fireplaces and, I suppose, kerosene heaters. My grandmother saw the advent of the automobile and aircraft, vast advances in modern medicine; not to mention, the computer revolution. I am only two generations removed from the cusp of innovation my grandmother witnessed during her lifetime. Pretty interesting to ponder.
Change. They say, “The only constant in life is change.” The irony of it all. Yes, change is all around us. Now, my role as daughter is often “Caregiver” or “Advisor” to my father, who is fond of calling me his business manager or letting everyone know that I hold all of his medical records. 🙂 Yes, times do bring changes, honey.