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A Tribute to Grandma

 

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She was almost 90 years old and had spent the past eight years in a nursing home.  The last three practically confined to a bed. She left her room only to be taken, in a wheel chair, down the hallway to the bathing room where she was showered while she remained seated.  Her three daughters visited daily – taking turns on a schedule so that one of them was with her every day, usually during lunchtime and they helped her hold her spoon.   And I, her granddaughter, visited once a week – no certain day, most often late afternoons.

Grandma Gladys communicated very little.   Her greeting was a mumbled, “How are you?”  She answered questions with a simple yes or no – sometimes by nodding or shaking her head.  She rarely initiated conversation.  I’d tell her what I’d been doing and about my children or funny things that the students in my sixth grade class did or what I planned to cook for supper.  Sometimes she responded, sometimes not.

I asked Grandma what she ate for lunch, and I couldn’t understand her answer.  “Chicken?” I said.  She pulled her eyebrows down and shook her head.  “Meatloaf?”  “Macaroni and cheese?”  We played this question game until I gave up or named something that she’d eaten.  When I asked who visited her that day, I understood her answer because I knew my Mom’s and my aunts’ visiting schedules.

Grandma Gladys was always pleasant. Agreeable. Content. Appreciative.  Never angry.  Before I left her small world within the four walls of her room, I leaned over to kiss her forehead, told her bye and that I loved her.  She responded, “Thank you for coming.”  The clearest words she said.  Or maybe the ones I understood most easily because ever since I was young and visited her and Papa in their home, she always said those same words when I told her bye.

She didn’t watch television or read.  A large window close to Grandma’s bed brought the natural world into her room.  She watched the leaves on the small maple tree change with the seasons.  And she watched the sky.  White clouds, blue sky, storm clouds, gray sky.    If I forgot to give a brief weather report, the temperature and predicted precipitation, she asked about it.  “Hot?” she’d say on an August day.  “Rain?” she’d ask.  She’d been the daughter and wife of farmers.  The weather had determined their day’s work and year’s income.

Mom visited Grandma one cold, winter day.  The sky was gray and the wind blew.  Light, feathery snow swirled.  Mother fed Grandma her lunch and spent most of the afternoon knitting as she sat in a chair beside Grandma’s bed.  Grandma lay looking outside.  When the time came for Mom to leave, she gathered dirty clothes from Grandma’s closet and picked up her own knitting bag, purse, and coat.  She leaned over Grandma’s bed to tell her bye and Grandma said, “Put your coat on.  It’s cold outside.”

Neither age nor rheumatoid arthritis nor mental illness nor the confines of a nursing home robbed Grandma of her mothering instincts.  She continued to take care of her daughter.

 

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