Thankful Thursday – Fresh Starts

Last night when I went to visit my grandmother at the rehabilitation center, she couldn’t remember my name.

She recognized me, knew who I was…but couldn’t come up with a name. I tried to smile reassuringly.  She asked me my name and I told her, “I’m not going to give it to you Grams…it’s up there…you’ll remember it!”  She then turned to my mother and asked my mother what my name was.  My mother gave her a hint, “It starts with an M.” She looked back at me, I saw her eyes brighten for a moment and then…”Melissa.”  “You got it:),” I said, trying to blink back the tears.

We all know that days like this will come…it’s an inevitability of life… Yet it’s still hard to reconcile this woman who is half paralyzed, lying in a bed, and wearing a diaper with the independent grandmother that I remember…  Who was still mowing her own lawn at 85, still gardening at 90, still driving at 95, still playing her fiddle at 97…  Who could still recognize my voice in an instant over the telephone right up until her stroke a few weeks ago….

She looked up at me last night and told me that I was beautiful-that I could be a movie star. And at that, I did have to turn away so she wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes.

For most people sweet words and praise from a grandmother are expected…are the norm, however coming from my grandmother they are something of a revelation.   She was not a proud grandmother who babysat and baked cookies, she didn’t offer hugs and kisses… And even as we got older she really felt no need to even maintain any contact with us at all.  In fact she has never in my whole life even telephoned me…not even to wish me a happy birthday. My mother and my late great aunt were basically her whole life.   Our grandmother never made any attempt to hide the fact that she thought that my sisters and I were nothing but a burden on my mother.  She made it clear that she didn’t like us and that nothing we ever did was right. She was an extremely critical and hurtful woman who made no bones about letting us all know that we were forever on her “Sh**” list.  My sisters and I actually used to joke that she was so strong and hearty at her age due to the vinegar that ran through her veins (since she never had a nice thing to say about anyone-family and strangers alike.)

The past 5-10 years however have shown a change in her…a mellowing.  She’s started showing a bit more of an interest in our lives and in her great grandchildren–my nieces and nephews.  She’s started to enjoy family visits…and she’s even started complimenting us on our lives, our choices, and yes…even our looks.  (And trust me…though I would never in a million years be confused with a movie star…that compliment meant the world to me.)

[I know I’m rambling…I promise there is a point in here somewhere.]

As my grandmother every day struggles with her new physical challenges in life and as she slips farther and father into dementia’s grasp…I try to see through the heartache to the promise.  There are blessings mixed into every bad situation if one can be open enough to look for them.

Yes, she forgets 20 minutes after having dinner that she’s eaten it…but is it really that big of a loss since she’d not really enjoyed the tough meat and bland potatoes that the rehab center serves anyway?  Yes, she forgets what day of the week it is and whether it is 6am or 6pm…but isn’t it perhaps a blessing that she doesn’t realize how long she’s been sick and away from home?

In a way it’s like she gets a fresh start every time her short term memory fails her.  A fresh start to believe that the physical therapy will help her (as we all pray it eventually might).  A fresh start to believe that she’ll be home in her own bed soon.

And a fresh start to look at her daughter, granddaughters, and great grand children with love and affection and trust.  And it gives us a chance at that same fresh start with her.  A second chance to have that kindly, loving grandmother that the children within us still crave.  A second chance to build a better relationship and create memories enough to last a lifetime.

When I leave to go home, promising to return the next day with fresh pencils for the crossword puzzle book I’ve given her and with snacks she can have between meals (that she’s forgotten she’s eaten), I kiss her and tell her that I love her…and she holds me tight…kisses me back and says, “I love you too.”

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About Melissa's Meanderings

Interests: Green Living, The Environment, Animal Rights, Reading, Gardening, Home Improvement, Pets, Vegetarianism, Photography.
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24 Responses to Thankful Thursday – Fresh Starts

  1. Thom says:

    Beautiful post today sweetheart……XOXOXO

    -T

  2. It’s so sad to forget things but it sounds like she has found some peace in that and I’m glad you’re getting the chance to connect with her and share love. Very sweet!

  3. This post means so much to me. I just lost my grandmother this past march, and you articulated many thoughts and feelings that I haven’t been able to. My grandmother was the rock of my family, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to take a longer moment than usual to remember her today. I love your thoughts about ‘fresh starts’ and am glad you have been able to have a warm relationship with your grams.

    Thank you.
    Rebecca

    • Relationships can be such complicated things…mixtures of dislike and love, disdain and respect. It’s so important to remember the good times and to take every opportunity for a second chance to improve and strengthen those relationships. Glad you were able to relate in some way to my thoughts and feelings.

  4. Souzapalooza says:

    I’m sitting crying at my desk. I can totally relate and empathize with you and your grandma. My grandma is living with lung cancer, and irony for a woman who never smoked a day in her life and always harassed those that did. She has been staying with my mom who has been taking care of her morning noon and night. Each day I visit I see her slowly slipping away both mentally and physically. My grandmother was always the strong silent care giver. I think she is determined to hang on as long as she can in case we need her, but with all the suffering we are watching her go through, I would much rather her let goof the responsibility and move on to what waits for her beyond this life.
    I wish the best for your grandmother and for your family. I hope your “fresh start” allows you to see your grandma in a new light and realize that underneath what seems to be a rough, harsh, defense, there is a love and appreciation for the beautiful movie star inside you. 🙂

  5. SuziCate says:

    So glad you’re getting this peace with your grandmother after years of heartache.

  6. Joss says:

    After reading this, and seeing the thread of goodness and grace that runs through it, I can only say that you are a granddaughter to proud of, in every way. You humble me!

    • There were many years where I didn’t make as much of an effort as I could have…and I can’t help but wonder if perhaps the tide may have turned a bit earlier if I had. For now though, I can only try to be the granddaughter that I would want to have rather than the granddaughter that I was raised to be. If I can live up to at least a little of what you see in me, I should be able to achieve that goal.

  7. Cathy says:

    Aww ….sorry to hear about your gma….but I am glad your relationship with her has gotten better and stronger….

  8. My grandmother was the same way, Melissa. It was hard to be “lovey dovey” with her because that just wasn’t the relationship we had. It was much more complicated than that. While your gram’s situation can certainly be upsetting to you, I’m glad that you’re able to see past the unpleasant stuff and recognize the good that can come out of this. Whether or not the two of you made an effort in the past, you’re clearly forming a bond now–one that will surely get you off of her “sh*t list”! 😉 xoxo

    • Relationships are definitely not so easily defined by labels like grandmother, etc. I am definitely just doing my best to think about the here and now and let go of the past…thankfully as she’s come around the past few years so have I, thus making it a lot easier at this point.

  9. Matthew says:

    Thank you for that Melissa. I had lost both of my grandparents (my mom’s parents) within the last 2 years, my grandma being the most recent.

    Age was simply the force to be reckoned with so we were fortunate in that matter. But this reminded me of those days, visiting her at assisted living where physically she was still strong as an Ox, but could hardly speak and was virtually lost to us…but there were those moments you just saw something in her eyes where you knew some memory was playing in her mind that assured us that she remembered.

  10. Lisa says:

    Melissa,
    This brought tears to my eyes! Great post! (And I like the new design of the page too)

  11. Great post, and blog looks fabulous darling 🙂

  12. Catherine says:

    This was beautiful, Melissa. I really feel for your grandmother and your family for going through this tough time. I’m not sure if this is helpful or annoying, but I feel the need to tell you that you are so lucky for having this relationship with your grandmother in the first place. All of my grandparents had died before I was born (great genes, huh?), so I never had this relationship you speak of. Cherish it for as long as it lasts 🙂

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