Today I'm thankful for my Grandma, my mom's mom, and for the time we've gotten to spend with her over the last several months. Grandma has always lived on the East Coast, too far away to see very often. Growing up we saw her every few years. Sometimes we flew from Alberta. (I was terrified of getting on that plane, and had a terrible stomach ache.) Once we took the train. (Squished pennies on the tracks, the conductor whom we deemed "The Mustache Man", squeeze cheese, learning to count to 100, my four year old self walking around making sure that everyone else loved Jesus, and that family across from us who ate fried chicken the whole way.) At the end of the tracks, or the runway, or the long road, there was Grandma and Grandpa's house, a magical place full of televisions (so many!) and yummy food and lots of love and The Italian Aunts, whom we quickly learned were not to be messed with when it came to pignoli cookies. Sometimes Grandma and Grandpa came to visit us, too. And during the long years between visits, there were packages full of gifts and homemade cookies and love.
I've always felt a bit sad that I lived so far away from my grandparents, both sets of them. I know they loved me very much, and I love them too, but I felt I missed out on the really special, close relationships that are formed when you see someone more often. Up until this Spring, the last time I'd seen my Grandma was over ten years ago, when I'd spent a month in Pennsylvania. Then, in June, my mom flew back East and brought Grandma across the country with her. It was going to be for a month, but it soon became clear that she wasn't going back. Grandma is 93, has very little memory, and has deteriorated a lot in the last few months. I've been so, so thankful that my kids have gotten to know her and for the time we've all had with her. We spent four weeks camped out at my parents' while we wrapped up the sale of our home and Erik's job, and during that time we got to see a lot of Grandma.
She always greeted us with "hi" or "who is it?" when we walked in the door. She commented on how cute Pearl was. We practically had to shout to be heard, but the kids would get close and talk with her. Sometimes they exasperated her. Sometimes she exasperated us all. She threatened to punch them. She made us laugh with her spunky comments. She still sighed over how handsome Grandpa was. Sometimes she didn't seem to remember that he passed away a long time ago, and another day she said, "I wish my husband would call me, but he's pushing up daisies." Once, she remembered my name. She loves to look at old photos, and sometimes we'd sit and look through them together. She had a stack of cards, each lovingly written, and each day she'd read them as if for the first time. It was interesting what she could remember about long ago. My mom brought out a wedding photo one day, of her and Grandpa, young and beautiful, and she said, "That is the best picture in the whole wide world!" I asked her about her wedding, and her honeymoon, and loved hearing what little snippets she could recall.
Grandma is old. She is tired, and her body is failing her. She spends much of the day sleeping, and in so many ways is like a little child. She is neither lamenting her past nor worrying about her future. She lives in the moment. I'm glad for all the moments we had with her this summer and fall, glad that I got to spend some precious time getting to know her a little more. I'm happy that my kids, at least the older ones, will remember her. I'm thankful that she is spending her last days in the company of many people who love her, grandchildren and great grandchildren weaving in and through this season of her life. I'm glad she's now woven into the tapestry of theirs too. One day Peregrine said to me, "Mom, when I'm grown up, I'll take care of you if you need me to. Even if you don't remember things, I'll still love you. But I hope you'll remember." I'm grateful that my kids have seen my parents lovingly caring for my Grandma, that they got to help care for her too. I'm so thankful for my Grandma, for her life, and that I got to be part of it.