to my grandmother

Every Wednesday noon, one of the family meets my grandmother at her physiotherapist to drive her and all her grocery shopping home. Sometimes she’s in a hurry because she’s got some social engagement scheduled for the afternoon. Sometimes we invite her over for lunch. Sometimes she just wants someone to chat with for a while. Today it was the latter, so I stayed a while and she told me of another visit at the old people’s home where she goes regularly. It’s the place where a lot of her classmates, friends and acquaintances now live and it’s just down the hill from her house, so she often goes to visit there and to help out. She knows all the nurses and she knows they are chronically short on time.

I know all this, none of it is new to me. I know the stories, I know a lot of the people she talks about, at least I can remember them from when I was a kid. I know that she is very practical and kind in her assistance to her friends, I know the stories.

And yet, today, as we sat in her formally-comfortable living room at midday, with the grey sky outside and the heating on, I looked at her and it all felt new to me. I saw that her body was old, so much older than I remembered. I saw that she can’t see or hear as well as she used to. And I listened as she told me in her matter-of-fact way of the friend whose sight is failing and who she bullies to be as independent as she can be despite her insecurity over not seeing, and who she indulges in all those instances where indulgence is harmless. I listened as she told me how she helped another friend to change her trousers and discovered that she hadn’t made it to the bathroom in time and how she dealt with it in her calm, practical way. And I realized that I was sitting at a table with a heroine and suddenly I felt like bursting into tears.

And so, I’m dedicating this post and these thoughts to my grandmother, who is by no means a saint, who exasperates me regularly, and who is the coolest, strongest, toughest, kindest octogenarian I know. Who goes out of her way to help old friends. Who volunteers once a week at a charity shop. Who works as a volunteer in the church community, visiting elderly folks on their birthdays. Who loves to travel and has gone off to travel places like Alaska, South Africa, Peru in the last ten years alone. Who once threw out a very close friend, because that friend thought her social visit was more important than a promise that my grandmother had made to her four-year-old granddaughter that she could stay the night at her place, which the friendship didn’t survive and which she’s never regretted. Who played tricks on her teachers as a schoolgirl, who worked as a nurse throughout the war and the falling bombs, who fell in love with my grandfather at first sight, who, years later, had to be tricked in her turn by my grandfather into trying her very first pair of trousers, who prefers spending her money on her nine grandchildren than keeping it “safe”, who watches the news and reads and is well-informed and goes to the theatre and the opera and concerts and who always let me lick out the bowl when we baked cookies.

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About wordsurfer

writer, ex-teacher, human rights believer & fighter, traveller, adventure-seeker, freedom lover, global citizen. big on daydreams, less so on reality.

Posted on November 7, 2012, in day-to-day and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I loved reading that…and it made me miss my grandmas. It’s funny how on certain days you just see things so much more clearly and you realize that time has passed…and people, no matter how indomitable their spirits may be, grow old. Your grandmother sounds like quite a woman. 🙂

    • You’re so right about that, it’s as if suddenly you see something for the first time. I really felt ashamed today, that’s why I needed to write this. Although I’m fiercely proud of her, so often I’m also exasperated about it when she fusses or when she repeats a story I’ve heard before. And yet, she is so amazing and I don’t tell her that often enough.
      I’m sending my love to your grandmothers, wherever they are!

      • I’m pretty sure they’re in heaven…though with my feisty redheaded one…she could still be out partying somewhere and missed the bus. 😉

        I get that way with my mom sometimes. My frustration overtakes me for a moment and I see only that…and forget the hero she’s always been to me.

        My husband’s parents are another example but in a different way. He was kind of a late in life baby…so his parents are in their late 70’s. His mom still works full time at a local hospital by them as the head of volunteer services and she works out daily…so you forget that they’re getting on in age. And then someting like his uncle dying reminds you…every minute spent with them is precious because we don’t know how much longer we’ll have them. 🙂

  2. What a beautiful portrait your words make of her! Please keep writing about her so that your kids or theirs will still know her. One of my Grandmothers was a “Rosie the Rivoter” during the war years. She was tough and beautiful and loved us all with an incredible tenacity. Because I knew her, I can tell my daughters where they get their crooked toes and their devilish smiles. I wonder if they would remember to tell their children the same, if I hadn’t written it down for them?
    I understand your moment of nearly crying, they are so much about who we have been able to become ourselves. Thank you for sharing your grandma!
    ❤ "Mom" aka Kassie

    • Thank you so much, this means a lot! I know my Dad asked his Mum several times to write down parts of the family history, those things she remembered, about her first husband who died in the war, her second husband who died when I was only a year old, about when my Dad was a boy… Unfortunately, she fell ill before he could really get her started on it and she passed away, only leaving some diaries of when she was a young woman.
      And I’ve been meaning to record my Mum’s mother’s (the grandma I’m talking about in this post) stories for years now – she has such amazing and funny stories! – yet I don’t do anything about it. I think maybe it’s because I’m afraid that writing them down would be too final. Like some kind of superstition, you know: I write her stories down and she’ll… No. No, I can’t even think about it. But you ARE right, these things are important and I do want the next generation to know her, and to know all their grandparents, as much as it’s possible. One of my favourite photos is one of my great-grandmother’s wedding day, because she looks so much like me! It’s scary and amazing at the same time.

  3. Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful person, and that’s a lovely tribute you wrote to her. I’m sure she’d love it if she read it. 🙂

  4. That was beautiful. I reminded of my grandma. She is old and weak now, but she used to be strong, strong will and also travel the world by herself. Loved your post!

  5. Nominated you for Blog of the Year…rules, etc are waiting for you at my blog. 🙂

  1. Pingback: Reach Out And Touch…Thank You! « theinnerwildkat

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