About 8 years ago, my family uprooted and moved to a new city to care for my husband’s elderly mother. When my children found out that we were going to live with Grandma, they thought they had died and gone to heaven because Grandma pretty much kept a never-ending supply of ice cream and treats around the house. In kid world, this was definitely an upgrade situation.
But in reality, combining two households was challenging to say the least. Grandma had been living a solitary life by herself since my husband’s father’s death almost 4 years earlier. Meanwhile, we had rambunctious children ranging in age from 2 to 8 years old. Also, Grandma had a very strong personality, plus liked to “favor” one of the children. She didn’t seem to understand that when we were parenting our children, she couldn’t insert herself and have it work out very well.
Living with a octogenarian who has increasing dementia keeps life interesting. If you think toddlers are challenging, you are just beginning to understand what this is really like. Layer in a few of her adult children who are in denial about their parent’s condition, and who also conveniently live out-of-town, and you begin to get a picture of some of the fun we have experienced. Our family has definitely grown in many virtues because of choosing to serve Grandma.
Fast forward 8 years. We had to transition Grandma to a long-term care facility last year for a whole host of reasons. My family has been mourning the loss, even though she is only 1 mile away. We visit her often, but not many people seem to understand how it feels to embrace someone into your daily life like we did, then have to “let go.” I think that has been the hardest part of this transition. We love her dearly and she was part of our immediate lives for 8 years. She turned 90 years old last week, and we celebrated with her at the center. My children played piano and she sang along. We all ate way too much pie. Half the residents stayed and listened to the recital. One even claimed my children as her grandchildren, too. She also had a birthday next week. She thinks she is turning 92.
Grandma taught us many lessons which I want to share with you today. I hope you can learn as much as we did!
- A positive attitude is everything. Grandma lived through the Depression, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, etc…She knew what it meant to face difficulties. Her approach was to always keep a positive outlook. When she went into the long-term care facility, she never looked back. She takes “the bus” on outings once a week. She doesn’t have any idea where she went, but she sure enjoys it. She cannot get over how lucky she is to have such a loving, caring staff who she works with! I see that her loving attitude attracts the loving, caring staff.
- A simple faith to know that God loves you. Grandma was blessed to have many holy people guide her throughout her life. Some of the people who she had for direction are now famous names. She could recall all kinds of examples of how God opened doors for her. I noticed that she was always willing to step through them.
- Never, never, never give up. Grandma is like the Energizer bunny–she keeps going and going and going. She has more energy in one day than I will probably have in a lifetime. She keeps active and is persistent in what she pursues. Although, sometimes that would mean finding her dangerously perched on top of the patio table trying to open the umbrella over her head. I see that she was simply overcoming any obstacle in her path, even to her own detriment.
Grandma taught us many, many more lessons. She continues to show us how to live with dignity. She shines brightly around all of her neighbors and the staff at the center. We sure love and miss her in our lives, although we still get to visit. Thank you, Grandma, for showing us how to live. Happy 90th Birthday!