Saturday, December 29, 2007

Lunch for Two (The hardest thing I've written so far.)

I arrived at my grandmother's apartment this afternoon with lunch in hand for the two of us. I was supposed to take her out for lunch, but she said was feeling weak and would I mind if we just stayed inside instead. So I brought sandwiches on rye bread and coffee with me.
When I arrived she buzzed me in and in the front foyer there was a soft buzz of conversation by all the old ladies sitting around. That is until I walked passed them. They grew silent and wide eyed when I said hello. They all sat around and reminded me of old ostriches, for some funny reason. Curiously arching their necks, I suppose they were wondering who I was there to see.

When I walked into my grandmother's place she was waiting for me inside, propped on her walker and smiling from one pearly earring to the other. I secretly wanted to burst into tears. She has become so frail and feeble. But it's not her aging that makes me want to cry. It's her desire to keep going and not allow herself to fall apart, even though her body would have it otherwise.

For a woman who is 87 years old, she is still beautiful to me. She still gets nicely dressed. I'm not talking velour jump suit and orthopedic shoes either. I'm talking pretty turtle necks, tasteful jewelry, shoes and socks that match and always, lipstick. I adore this woman and she adores me.
As I walked into the kitchen I saw that she had already set her little table for two. Complete with wine glasses! And cheese cut up with tooth picks sticking out the top along with a little pyrex cup filled with sliced pickles as our hors d'oeuvres. It was such a humble little setting, but the fact that she took the time to prepare it for me touched me deeply.

She sat down and I distributed our tasty meal. We had such a lovely time. Talking and laughing together in her kitchen. We drank pomegranate juice out of the wine glasses. " I know! Let's get drunk!" She chuckled.

Then after I cleaned up we moved to the couch and she asked me to read the stories that she has been writing for the newspaper that circulates around her building. Now how do you like that? Eight seven, hands disfigured from arthritis and she is hand writing her memories and posting them for the enjoyment of others. I read her stories out loud. Stories about the circus coming to town, about growing up during the depression and about helping to harvest the tobacco fields in Massachusetts. I didn't even know that tobacco could be grown in Massachusetts.

We sat and continued to laugh and ate chocolates and be still and enjoy one another. Eventually though, I had to go. "Are you sure you don't want a cup of tea, or a piece of pie?" She asked me. I wanted to say yes so badly, but the lump that began forming in my throat when I got there was becoming harder to swallow. "I wish I could, but I need to get going." I said. "It's just that, I don't know if I'll ever see you again." She said. This was killing me now. "You'll see me again." I reassured her, but I think I was also trying to reassure myself. "Well, I want you to have this she said and gave me a beautiful silver ring that she got out of a little box and I want you to take anything else that you want from here with you. " "I can't." I said, fighting the tears that were brimming. I took the ring because she gave it to me, but I couldn't bring myself to go around and shop for whatever else I wanted.

"Wait, I want you to have this too." She said and handed me some cash. "No, please." I pleaded. "Take it. I want you to have it." So I took the cash and stuffed it in the back pocket of my blue jeans. My grandmother is so broke, she's like the widow who gave the two mites in the Bible. Only my grandmother gave those two mites to me.

I gathered my things. Told her I loved her. Hugged her little body and kissed her wrinkled cheek. "I love you too, My Little Honey Bun." She said to me. (That's what she's always called me.) Then I smiled and walked out the door. I fought back the tears as I walked down the hallway and out to the car. But before I reached the car I turned around to see her waving from her window and I waved back and shouted as loud as I could "I LOVE YOU!!"

Then I got into the car, drove off and pulled over by the side of the road and dissolved into tears. I cried because she is so old and unwell. I cried because I only get to see her twice a year. I cried because a generation in my family is dying off and I can't hold on to anyone.

This is what I think about my grandmother and the elderly in general. I think they are really precious. I think they are also sorely overlooked in our society today. It breaks my heart over and over again. I think about them being alone, being sick, being poor, not having people to come and visit them. I can't stand it. So when I go home, I 'm gonna try and do something about it. But I'll keep that private for now, I gotta work out the details....


Dan Mega said...

An honest and heartfelt post. Here is to a great 2008 to you and your granny.

xeonX said...

I think I can relate to this to a certain degree.. My grandmother is 83 and she lives with my parents.(I honestly cannot imagine her staying away from us all by herself).She's little and frail too. She has so much to tell me about her childhood and events from her past. Although her hearing is slightly off and speech a wee bit slurry..I'm only more than happy to sit down and listen to her! I think for all that they've been through in their lives, all the hardships they've faced, they deserve this much from us. Our time and our respect. I totally second your sentiments and I really hope you manage to do something amazing for them.

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Holly said...

Colleen, this is a beautiful and touching story. It reminds me a lot of the way things are going with my own grandmother. No matter how solid our faith may be, the thought of losing a loved one is heart wrenching, purely for selfish reasons. Heaven will be awesome, but we do not want to let our loved ones go!

I also struggle knowing that one day too my body will fail me. That I will be the same young soul trapped in a deteriorating body.

Your grandmother sounds precious and I can tell already from the little I know of you that she is blessed to have you as her granddaughter!

If you ever end up sharing your plan to help this cause, and it’s something others can help with too, I’d be interested! I’ve often felt I should volunteer at a nursing home or something but have never acted on the thought.
Great post! :)

colleen said...

I have a sweet old grannie who's 90. Who lives not in a shoe but in big house by herself in Spokane. I often am overwhelmed with grief thinking about her getting up each morning by herself. What if she falls? What if she collapses or something? She is such a treasure. Yes, I agree. More could be done for them.

Keep us posted on your thoughts Luv!

Susan Kelly Skitt said...

Colleen, I was riveted to your story. Your love for your dear Grandma-ma is so evident and her love for you is boundless.

I know the feeling in a way, my Mom's Mom went home to Heaven a few years ago, but I remember visiting her in a tiny subsized retirement apartment. She went on for ten or more years without my Grandpa, friendly to everyone she'd greet, and she'd greet everyone in that home. Even into her nineties, she hosted a Bible Study with snacks and had my Dad come teach anyone at the home who was willing to come and hear God's Word. I remember when I was in charge of a kids group at church, brining the children at Christmas to sing songs they had practiced for the people there. You would have thought we brought them the world, the joy on the people's faces to see the children!

My Nanna is still alive, my Dad's Mom. She is my reading pal, we trade books all the time. You would never know she is a cancer survivor, she is tough but sweet. She reminds me a bit of your Grandmom, dresses still is lovely clothes, never tacky, always graceful and makes even eating tuna sandwiches a special event. You would also never know her kidneys are failing... it won't be long until she goes Home. I'm mixed with a sense of sadness and yet with longing. One day there will be a grand family reunion for all those who know Jesus as Savior.

For that, I'm forever grateful.

Thanks for letting me share here and for sharing your heart with us.

Much love,

~**Dawn**~ said...

Oh Colleen. (((HUGS))) This is so beautiful. And I probably should have saved it to read at home, because now I'm all misty. My Gram & I were so close. She's been gone six years now & I miss her every single day. She was so independent, right until the very end. And like your grandmother, always was put together. Unless she was mowing the lawn on the rider. They are a precious generation. And they have so much worth sharing, if we would just slow down & listen.

Brandon Scullion said...

Why do you only get to see her twice a year?
Is she still with you?
And do you have any pictures?

I love your story about her.
I actually have similar experiences with Andi's grandmother; she is 91. Every so often I go visit her and we sit down to a home cooked Hungarian lunch and then resign to the living room for coffee and cake. Then she forces me to do a shot of some crazy foreign liquor at which point she calls me a girl for not shooting it down as she does.
She is truly incredible.

Colleen said...

Brandon- I only see her twice a year because that's about the amount of times I get to make it to New Jersey. (I'll sneak in 3 if I'm lucky) However, I do call her. (Plus she reads all my blogs.)
Yes, she is still alive :-)Yes, I have pictures of her. But nothing on my camera at the time of this post. Andi's grandmother sounds like a hoot! Thanks for sharing your little story. That's great that you go and visit her. :)