My grandmother, Kathryn, is my father's mother. She has lived a long and beautiful life. She is ninety-seven years old and, until two months ago, was living independently in her own home. Recently she had been hospitalized and is now in a hospice care center. She is dying. I flew to visit her last week to say goodbye. While she has lived a long, long time, it still makes me so sad that she will be leaving us soon. Do we ever feel prepared to say goodbye to those we love? No matter what my age, the death of someone close to me makes me feel like a child.
(Grandma and baby Annie a several years ago)
After losing my mother a little over a year ago and my father a dozen years ago (can it really be that long?), I do not feel qualified to be the oldest person in my family. It's not because I have a problem with my age but because I feel badly for my children not to have another generation older than their mother with whom they can have a day to day relationship. Their local grandparents have died. They have another loving set of grandparents living in Florida. While we cherish the small amounts of time we spend with them, those short visits do not allow for a daily relationship built on hours and hours of unplanned time together from which they can learn about life. I can't help but wish they had long, even boring, stretches of time with someone older than themselves, someone who isn't their parent, someone with the time to spend and the patience to teach.
As a child and even a young adult, I had my grandparents nearby to ask advice and to spend not just "quality time" but "quantity time". I spent time with my grandparents helping them do everyday things rather doing anything altogether special or well planned. We cooked. We baked countless Christmas cookies year after year. We fed the birds. We read the comics in the newspaper. We walked the dog. We sat in the lounge chairs in the back yard and listened to Bobby Vinton. We hung the laundry on the line. We drank lemonade in the summertime with paper umbrellas in the glasses. We shopped at TJ Maxx. We set our hair in rollers. We played the organ. We cooked paprikash. We played cards. It all amounted to beautiful relationships and memories galore. I want that for my children and yet I cannot give it to them.
(Grandma and Christopher in 2006)
The kids and I recently talked about what a fantastic card player Grandma is. Rarely does anyone beat her. If they do, she quickly gathers up the cards, shuffles them and deals another hand. She'll play for hours. And yet, it is the only game I have ever seen her play. She is of the generation that values hard work, drinks black coffee, wears things out. Until only recently, she cooked, cleaned and ironed like nobody's business. But she also knew how to relax. In the evenings, she likes to watch Jeopardy. And I think she could beat all of the television contestants on any given day.
Sigh. Our family will miss her tremendously.
If you'd be so kind as to offer a prayer for my grandmother Kathryn, I'd so appreciate it.