Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day with My Grandmother

As a child, I remember being very nervous just having to talk to my grandmother on the phone to say “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Birthday!” because although all of my extended family is from Baltimore, I was born in Arizona and grew up pretty much all over the US, not ever seeing my relatives. There are pictures of me as a baby at my Aunt’s house, but that was one of the last times I physically saw a relative before we moved back to Maryland when I was 11 years old. So, I guess you could say I’m not very tight with my extended family. They’ve always kind of been strangers to me, so I never tried too hard. I didn’t really know what it was like to have cousins, aunts, uncles, or grandparents around, so I didn’t really have any reason to try and involve myself with them once I was in a position to do so.

This doesn’t stop my mom from keeping me posted and giving me the full updates on each and every one of our extended family members nearly every time I talk with her. This past week seems to have been a bit more stressful with the extended family than usual. My grandmother took a fall about a month ago, was in the hospital, and went into a nursing home for rehab. My aunt, who cares for my grandmother, has ongoing health issues of her own, my other aunt and uncle were both in the hospital for routine surgery last week, and my other aunt is in the nut house in West Virginia.

“Mom’s probably wondering why no one has come to visit her,” my mom says, whose own excuse is an old car that’s she’s afraid to drive the 50 miles on the beltway.

“Maybe I’ll go,” I thought out loud. “The nursing home is only 15 minutes from my house.”

And so, I promised to go – by myself – to a nursing home to see my grandmother on Mother’s Day. Would she know who I was without my mom standing next to me? What if we have nothing to talk about? I think I’ve only ever talked for about 20 minutes with my grandmother total ever.

Yesterday came, and I was a nervous wreck. I kept reminding myself why I initially thought about going: it’s got to really suck to be in a nursing home and have no one come visit you. I only live 15 minutes away. There’s no reason I can’t do this. I can do this. I can do this.

I know very little about my grandmother, but I do know her favorite bakery is not too far from the nursing home, so I stopped by there to pick up some pastries on my way to see her yesterday. I don’t know if I was stalling or if I just didn’t want to show up empty handed. Either way, I know the woman wouldn’t mind some good sweets.

As I was preparing to head over to the nursing home, I thought about all my interactions up until this point with my grandmother. I’m the jokster in the family. I just make jokes. I never talk about anything deep with anyone I’m related to, and I don’t know why, because I have absolutely no issue carrying on meaningful conversations with anyone else – even strangers. I knew I had to go in there and be real. My grandmother deserved that much.

“I’m here to see…” I told the lady at the desk. I got her room number and walked in. She was so happy to see me. She stuffed me full of pastries, and we talked about how much it sucks to be 91 – how she’s been told she must use a walker to walk, but she sneaks without it to the bathroom anyway, how her body is just failing because of the age, and it frustrates her to no end because she feels like people think she’s an idiot, and she’s not.

“She’s just stubborn,” my mom said, when I recounted the day spent with my grandmother.

“No she isn’t,” I said, “She’s strong willed. I’m strong willed. It’s just like my refusal to stay put after a derby injury.”

And until yesterday I had no idea that’s who my grandmother was. Now, I’m glad I know. I'm glad I went, and I’m looking forward to going back and learning more.

No comments: