I've been thinking a lot about growing old. Most of my thoughts are inspired by my grandmother. Next month she will be 96 years old.
I was looking through an old photo album a few weeks ago and was awe struck with my grandmother's old photos. She was born in the year 1913. She grew up in the age of horse and buggies, doing farm work by hand. They did not have tv's, or inside bathrooms! I just can not fathom what it would be like to grow up in those days and live to see the year 2009! She has seen it all! She has seen many wars, the great depression (and now maybe the second one approaching?), the invention of the TV, computers, cell phones.. soo much technology! What must that be like for her? If only I could see through her eyes. If only I could see some of the great thousands of memories she must have in her head!
My grandmother could not have any children. Her and my grandfather tried many times but it always ended in a miscarriage. They adopted two childrein in the 1950's. My mom and her biological brother. My grandmother ended up being an "older mother", adopting my mom and uncle when she was close to 40 and they were only two and three years old. She was very strict with them, mainly my mother. She was raised to be "lady like" which means no playing, no laughing, no having fun. My mother was very close with her father but he had a stroke and passed away when she was 13 yrs old. My grandfather was taken before I even had the chance to meet him! To this day my grandmother talks about her husband as if he has only been gone a few months. I know she still misses him greatly.
After that happened, my mother and grandmother had a rough relationship which I wont delve into much here. When my mother got pregnant with me in her twenties, she was not married and this was a big no no to my grandmother. My mother had planned to give me up for adoption and told my grandmother that she had done so, when really she hadn't. At first my grandmother didn't want much to do with me and I was the hidden family secret. But that changed one day. My mother and grandmother and I (a baby) had gone out shopping. My mom ran into a store real quickly and when she came back out to the car my grandmother was cradling me in her arms. That was the start of a beautiful grandmother/grandchild relationship.
My grandmother ended up being like a second mother to me. I think she learned from her mistakes raising my mother and she was not as strict and serious with me as she was her own kids. My mom was a single mom and worked a lot. I went to various babysitters as a baby but had bad experiences with most of them. Finally, my grandmother agreed to watch me while my mother worked. I have many fond memories of staying at my grandmother's house. She lived in a big farm house out in the country. I have many memories of playing outside in her huge yard, or riding on the back of the trailer that she had hooked up to her tractor and riding back through the woods that she owned! I loved that! I have memories of going shopping with her or sitting and waiting for her to be finished at the beauty shop!
When I was 16 she decided that her house and land was too much for her to take care of so she sold everything and bought a small house just a few blocks from where we lived. In my early twenties I had lost my job and began to stay with her during the day to help her with cleaning and getting meals around as she began to get slower in her aging years. I remember how we would eat lunch and then take a long nap afterwards, oohh how I miss those naps!!!
When I started to work again she had to hire someone to come in and help her with the cleaning around her house.
In 2003 I became pregnant by my now husband. We were not married yet and I remember being terrified to tell my grandmother! When I finally told her, she told me how she was so disappointed in me and never thought that I would do something like that! I remember getting off of the phone and just crying my eyes out!
To my surprise she calmed down quite quickly and decided to love me anyway and not make the same mistake she did with my mother when she was pregnant! I was married later that year and was lucky to have her at my wedding even though she had to be in a wheelchair because she could not walk that far or stand so much but she made sure to be there for me!
Later that year I had my son. My mother brought her to the hospital to meet my now 5 year old son Irish. I remember the first time she held him she had tears in her eyes. Later that night my mom told me that on the way home from the hospital my grandma told her, "I never thought I would live to see her graduate and I did. Then I never thought I would live long enough to see her get married and I did. Then I never thought I would live to see her have a child.. now I have seen it all.".. This is something that I will always remember and hold close to my heart.
That same year, she made the difficult decision to give up her home and move into an assisted living home because it was getting very difficult for her to take care of herself and her home on her own. She was not happy with the decision but she knew it was her only option. She moved in and ended up enjoying it! She found a lot of her old friends there from years ago and made some great new friends! As these last few years have gone by, her friends began dwindling. All of her friends end up dying eventually. She had made a very good friend that lived next to her. They shared a lot of great experiences and became close immediately. She passed away last year. What must that be like to lose all of your friends and feel left alone? She only has one sister and one brother left, everyone else has gone on to eternity.
Now at almost 96 years of age her mind is still sharp as a tack although everything else is going down hill. She has some sort of blood infection in her leg that can be very painful. She can only walk with a walker and she mostly rides around on a scooter. Her eyes are going very bad. She has a very hard time seeing now. She is now ready to go. She has made comments that she doesn't know why she has to be here for SOO long. Just a few weeks ago she was trying to hang up a calendar. She couldn't get it and she slammed it down on her desk and said, "life just isn't worth living anymore". She makes comments about how she is not much use to anyone anymore. It really hurts me to hear these comments but then I try to understand it from her point of view. Living for almost 96 years! Her body is giving out. She is in pain. She doesn't enjoy life anymore. The only thing that can put a smile on her face are my children! Her face lights up every time she sees them.
We know that we could get that call any day telling us that she is gone. We hope that we are prepared for it but I also know how hard it is going to hit me. It will be a relief in one way to know that she is ready to go and that she has led a very FULL life. Maybe it will just be my selfishness not wanting her to leave? I know that day is coming and I know how hard it is going to be. She is already making plans for her funeral. She already has the minister picked out and just last week she told my mom what songs she wants to have played. What must it be like to plan your own funeral? What must it be like to know that you can go to sleep and may not wake up in the morning? Maybe she is looking forward to that day?
Last year I got a tattoo in her honor. She has always loved and collected hummingbirds. She loved watching them outside and she loved to collect figurines of them. The tattoo is of a hummingbird and it has the words "grandmother" and then her name. It is on my chest so that she will always be close to my heart. Eventually, when I have the money I plan on getting a tattoo for my mother on the other side and then my maiden name written above both.