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January 4, 2009 / allyo

My grandma is declining, but slowly, and I went by yesterday to spend some time with her. I ended up helping my aunt shift her around in the bed and figured out that since she was having a hard time swallowing water, maybe ice chips would be something nice. She sucked down several spoonfuls of ice while my aunt and I talked about Jamie and our visit to my aunt’s bookstore earlier that day. I mentioned a book that he had particularly liked and she told my aunt to put it aside and give it to him the next time we came in, from her.

It’s amazing to me that her mind is so clear, and my aunt was talking about the hard side of that. That she asked, what does it mean, now that I can’t swallow? But I think that leaving this world knowing who you are and how much the people around you love you is probably worth the hard parts.

My aunt and I were talking before we left (while my grandma snored loudly in the other room!) and she was talking about grandma’s childhood. Both my grandmothers had hard beginnings, and my grandma o’s mother died when she was very small. She lived on a farm in Texas, and when her sister married when she was 8 years old, it became her responsibility to make dinner for her father and two brothers every night. Apparently she knew how to fry things and that was it. Her father ate everything she made, no matter how terrible, and told her brothers if they complained to eat or go hungry. My aunt was telling her recently that going without a mother hadn’t hampered her ability to mother her own children. And in fact, I do think she was about the best mother anyone could ever want. The devotion showed to her by her children always, but especially now, speaks to that. She told my aunt that all she ever wanted was to be a good mother, and that she had enjoyed every single minute.

I think that’s something that perhaps I get from her. We’ll see how devoted Jamie is in 50 years, but there has been much that has come to me naturally as a mother, especially when Jamie was a baby. When he was born, aside from the typical new mother learning curve, mothering him felt natural and good. Maybe it’s because I had so much angst about working that I didn’t have room for any other type but I felt that I had finally come into my own, that finally, here was something I could do well.

It’s funny because one of the things that has been worrying me is this: when I was a child I always wanted to be part of a big noisy family. Our house was very quiet and my grandmother was a neat freak, to the point that I couldn’t play with paints or playdough because they’d make a mess. So when Jamie wants to go home with my friend D’s family, it’s hard for me to laugh it off sometimes. Of course most of the time we talk about how three is the right number for our family and luckily Jamie can play by himself happily for a long time, but I do feel a sense of regret that perhaps I’ve given him the same thing that I didn’t want as a child.

(It would HELP if my sister and brother would get married and give Jamie some cousins nearby!)

Anyway, the point to this is that I get so hung up on how I am like my grandma and my mom, and sometimes what I get from my dad’s family is overlooked. And it was nice to feel that moment of kinship with my grandma.

Sigh. My dad is right. 88 years should be enough, but it just isn’t.



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  1. Laura / Jan 4 2009 9:15 pm

    Just wanted to let you know what you’re going through–my grandmother died last year a week shy of her 92nd birthday. It’s harder when their minds are sharp. Enjoy the time you have, and I know she appreciates you being there.

  2. LittleWit / Jan 5 2009 8:10 am

    It is hard when you know they are full cognizant of everything going on but it’s almost harder to watch someone whose mind is deteriorating. At least for those with all their capacities can still express their feelings and let you know their wishes. Give your Grandma lots of hugs!

  3. MystikMomma / Jan 8 2009 10:26 pm

    As I was reading Grandma O’s childhood part, I realized that I never knew how she grew up without a mother, much like you. You both share this bond, women who made it without their birth mother and turned out to do a pretty darn good job at recognizing what it is to be a mother!

    Celebrate how much of the “O” you are!!!!

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