I spent some time caring for my grandmother today. It’s a long story, but her usual caregivers were temporarily unavailable and my dad asked me to step in and help. At first I was annoyed. I’m very busy with work right now and I’m facing multiple deadlines. I agreed to do it because—obviously—it is the right thing to do; nevertheless I was feeling put out. Even though I am never asked to do this.
Now I am so glad I did.
This is my beautiful grandmother. She is 93 years old. I love her very much.
It is hard to see people you love changing as they age, changing noticeably each time you see them. I don’t like it. I am inexperienced when it comes to being around and caring for elderly people. I was scared to be in charge of her well-being.
It was fine. It was easy, thanks to my dad and others who have this territory all mapped out already. I just had to follow some simple instructions and all the difficult stuff was done when I arrived. I am grateful that grandma took her medications so easily at my request—that was part of what I was worried about.
I wandered a little while I was there, trying hard to notice things about her—about her home, about her likes and loves, her collections, her style.
There are careful touches in every nook, beloved items placed with intention.
The marks of her hand and her sister’s hand, Nana, with whom my grandmother lived for most of her life, are everywhere.
Photographs of family members cover walls, bookshelves, and tabletops. Paintings and prints, delicate wallpaper, rich drapes decorate the space. Beautiful light is everywhere. Everything is just so.
But that’s not all I noticed, while I was there. It’s not only my grandmother’s careful hand I see. I see my father’s, my uncle’s, and my aunt’s—they are part of her world every day, ensuring that she is OK, makes it to doctor appointments, and has company. They stay with her when her caregivers are away, do the shopping, and much more.
I see it in a hundred gifts given with love over the years.
The evidence of caring is all around, especially in the fact that my grandmother is still living in her home, despite her age and infirmities. It’s in the American flag that’s hanging on the house, just as it has done every July of my grandmother’s life. Someone put it there for her. It’s in the tiny china dish, fashioned in the shape of a teapot and painted with flowers, that holds her daily medications for after breakfast. It’s in the coffee, water, and orange juice that are served to her in the morning, and in the fact that they let her put syrup on her frosted danish. It’s in the special, mechanical chair that she sits in to watch her game shows. It’s in the living orchids and other houseplants that someone carefully waters. Fresh carnations sit in a vase on the dining table. Her pale yellow socks matched her pale yellow outfit, even though she cannot dress herself. I see it in her hairdo, which is set faithfully every week, and in her manicured nails.
None of this is easy, this maintenance that is done to keep her well and comfortable. I am full of wonder and gratitude, and not a little sadness.
Life is full of mighty lessons these days. I am trying hard to learn them.