I feel very lucky to have grown up with grandparents. Good ones.
1. My paternal grandfather (they called him Honey). He was a Navy veteran and a firefighter. He passed away before I really knew him but I think we got along great. 🙂
2. My paternal grandmother (I called her Nana). She would tell you exactly what her opinion of you and anything else was. A sassy but classy lady who never went out without makeup, a nice outfit and her hair done. She loved written correspondence and never let her grandkids go without hugs. She passed away in 2008.
3. My maternal grandfather (I called him Poppi). He was the most amazing man. He was the strong silent type. He was a WW2 vet and made the best scrambled eggs with crumbled bacon in them. A farm boy from Tennessee, he married my grandmother after three days of knowing each other in New York City. He used to call me “Appleplumsugardumpling” and I would tell him that nicknames shouldn’t be longer than real names. He was so handsome and slicked his hair. He loved golf and taught me how to swing a club and let me drive the golf cart. He passed away in October 2000. It was my senior year in high school and my spring speech class assignment was an obituary. I wrote one for him. It took me 20 minutes to get through and I almost didn’t finish it through the tears.
4. But that leaves one special lady, my maternal grandmother (I call her Mima). She is Italian but grew up in New York in an orphanage with her four older brothers. She is feisty and funny. She is terrified of heights but always a good sport. She loved to try new things and traveled with my Poppi all over the world. She took me to Australia where we rode camels on the beach and ate meat pies. She makes the only chicken tetrazzini I’ll eat and is a wonderful writer and storyteller.
She also has dementia. Something that strained our relationship in recent years–something that was very hard for me to handle after a lifetime of closeness. I was angry and sad and afraid. However, two days before her birthday this year, she wanted to see me. I have never gotten out of the house so quickly. All the things I was afraid of doing or saying or having happen seemed to disappear.
I take the opportunity to visit her often now, and although she is occasionally confused, she is the same Mima I know and love.
Most recently, we were reminiscing. She has many stories but can’t always recall details. She brought up Poppi (my grandpa, her husband, who she refers to as “Daddy” after raising four kids with him 🙂 ) and our conversation went like this:
She said, “I miss Daddy.”
I said, “I know you do. Was he the love of your life?”
She said, “You know he was.”
I said with a smile, “I know he was.”
She said, “We only knew each other for three days, you know.”
I said, “I know! I can’t imagine. What was it like when you first got married? Do you remember?”
She said, “I can’t remember how we met. I remember one time, I got up in the morning and dragged myself to the bathroom where I ran into him. I looked like a hag.”
(I laughed out loud at that unexpected description)
She continued, “I asked him, ‘How could you love anything that looks like me?’ And he said, ‘I think you look beautiful.'”
She started to get choked up. OK, so did I.
She said, “He was such a good man. That’s the type of man all women should be lucky enough to have. I don’t know why I got so lucky.”
We shared some more stories when she grabbed my hand, squeezed it, and looked in, my eyes.
She said, “Those are what we call memories. And they are wonderful!”
I had that in my head all weekend. I also don’t know how I got so lucky. I know so many people with grandparents they only knew as distant, mean, in nursing homes or not at all.
I had not shared that story with anyone. I woke up Tuesday to a comment in queque on a month-old blog post about coming home from vacation. It was from my Mom:
So anyway, I’m sharing this whole experience because a) it has been so powerful for me and b) because I’m new to this. I have never had nursing home visits with someone I love. The aging process, the way the brain works and emotionally handling those two things are really interesting first-time experiences. Who wants to deal with emotions? Ick. I’m a shove-’em-down-ignore-’em-smile-and-keep-going kinda gal.
More interesting is how old the experience is making me feel. Is that weird? It has provided a really surreal perspective. Therefore, I’m also using it as an opportunity to cross off one of my 28 goals–facing a fear. I never would’ve associated this when I wrote that goal in April but, yeah, I’m claiming it.
I hope you are having a wonderful week. I also hope this is not a downer as a heavy Wednesday and instead inspires you to appreciate loved ones and try something new to make memories. I have it on good authority that they’re wonderful!