Monday, September 21, 2009

Grow Old Along with Me

When I was about the same age Atticus is now, Grandma B, my maternal grandmother, came to stay with us. She had been living on her own in an apartment close by, but it became obvious that she could no longer be left alone. Mom & Dad moved her in with us. She shared my room. (I had the only other bedroom on the main floor, I had a bunkbed, and I was right down the hall from my parents--it was a no brainer to give her the bottom bunk.)

At first, things went well. Grandma did weird things on occasion, but Mom was able to handle the strange stuff. Grandma liked to work and stay busy, so that's what she did. Unfortunately for me, I came home one day from a friend's house to find my posters torn off the walls and Grandma going persistently through my underwear drawer.

"Grandma! What are you doing?" I asked.

"You're parents told me to pack up your room because you're moving out. And I cannot believe what a messy girl you are!" she answered, obviously disgusted.

I was devastated.

What girl at that age wants anyone, especially her grandmother, going through her personal things? But Grandma was convinced that Mom & Dad had told her to move me out, so that's what she was going to do. She played favorites, and for some mysterious reason I was not on her golden list, so I knew no amount of explanation on my behalf was going to change her mind.

That's how it came to be that I was "roomless" for quite some time. Mom & Dad set up a bed for me in the basement family room, and they cleared out a storage closet for me, but there was no privacy. Even the storage closet door had a metal screen in it, so changing clothes was difficult to do with any measure of privacy. I had four older brothers and one younger, and only two of the five were kind enough to allow me the courtesy of dressing without harassment. It's an awkward age as it is. Having three brothers coming in and threatening to watch you dress does not build confidence.

Is it any wonder, then, that when my other grandma, Grandma A., moved in with us my Senior year that I was more than a little apprehensive? Granted, I was four years older then, and I had my own room in the basement (with a locking door) that I didn't have to share, but the damage was done. I was nervous to be around her. I didn't like being left alone with her, and I hated having to go on walks with her. My "boyfriend" at the time couldn't understand why I was so negative. She was my grandma, after all! But he didn't understand: the woman who thought the oranges on the table were sleeping (because they hadn't moved for so long) was not the grandma I knew and loved. I couldn't risk being vulnerable: what if she "moved me out" like Grandma B. had done?

My grandmothers have both died long since (I was 15 when Grandma B died and 26 when Grandma A died). I can look back on my experiences with more understanding for them and for myself. They couldn't help what they were doing, and I don't believe they would have knowingly hurt me. Will they forgive me for being immature and insensitive? I think so.

My MIL, Gert, has Alzheimer's and is in a care facility now. Recently, we went to visit her. I was nervous. What if all my past feelings came rushing back? What if I froze and couldn't think of what to say to her? Thankfully, I was fine. I can still "see" the real Gert, even if only for a few moments here and there. She may not know who I am for sure, but I'm okay with that. I can honor her, love her, and just be with her without fear.

Because of my experiences with my grandmothers, I recognized the nervousness in my sons as we walked into the center. I worried about how they would react. I needn't have worried. Somehow, they understood what my younger self did not. They were patient, loving, and kind. I think that when I am old and senile, I will be grateful to have them taking care of me.

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith 'A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!'


Loralee and the gang... said...

My last vist with my grandma was very hard for many reasons, but I am glad for all the times I was able to visit. I wish it could have been more, but the memories that I hold are dearly cherished. I hope that I can pass this along to my children, like you have with yours, and to savor the precious moments that we all have together in this life.

dalene said...

Love this--thanks.

Dainon said...

This was your rebellious time.. I remember you being a touch on the disturbed side! ;) At least you didn't have your pottymouth back then. I discovered that after a phone call from you some odd ten years ago when you exclaimed, "WTH????" Of course, I've taken to saying that a lot myself, so I'm not so shocked anymore. However, you should find comfort in knowing that most people's lives are touched in wierd and dimented ways by their Grandparents. I look forward to meeting mine some day when they aren't gross, smelly, rude people. Maybe we will even be close friends!

Mrs. Organic said...

It is so hard to see grandparents grow older and change. My own Grandma B is becoming less vibrant and I don't know what I'll do without her, she's been such a huge part of my life.

Carrot Jello said...

My grandmas were both vibrant when they died.
I love when Carly Simon sings, "Grow Old Along With Me..."

Samantha said...

I, too, have watched grandparents deteriorate due to Alzheimer's. It's not easy. Thanks for sharing your story. It was good for me to read it.

Ambrosia said...

I was tipped to your blog through someone else and really appreciate your thoughts.
My grandma came to live with my family 5 years ago. She had been in the care of my aunt for 2 years previously, and many feelings were hurt. My grandma suffers from Parkinsons and selfishness. That may sound harsh, but is very true. She is now suffering with dementia and her time is very short. I still love my grandma and have come to terms with her behaviors. But, I see my younger siblings becoming very bitter toward her. They did not have the pleasure of seeing her as I did, pre-disease. I love her dearly, and hope my siblings will one day forgive her.
Thank you for sharing your feelings.

Gerb said...

Allen often tells me stories of Grandma B and of how much he wishes I could have met her. This was a wonderful post, thank you.

Elizabeth-W said...

Really sweet post, Pottymouth :)

Sister Pottymouth said...

Thank you, everyone. I never expected this post to generate many comments, so again...thanks. It means a lot.

Geo said...

Aww. This is churning up my own gram memories, some sweet, some not so, but all welcome and important. Great post!

samantha said...


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