Grandma moved in with me two years ago today.
It’s hard to believe that so much time has gone by so quickly and equally hard to believe how much my life has changed in the past twenty-four months.
Whereas I used to go out several nights a week to meet friends and socialize after work, these days I’m more apt to stay home and watch tv or read. To relieve stress (and sometimes just for a change of pace) I used to fly somewhere for the weekend every six weeks or so. Now, I am rarely away from the house for more than four hours at a time. Leaving for even a single night requires planning and coordination. Gone are the days of throwing some clothes in an overnight bag and disappearing on a whim to LA for a few days.
I used to take my freedom for granted.
It isn’t all bad, though. From this massive change in lifestyle I’ve gained a lot. I’ve gotten to know my Grandmother in a way few grandkids ever do. I’ve learned how to put someone else’s needs ahead of my own and I’ve learned that no matter how hard things become, I can endure. I am also the proud beneficiary of stories of a long-ago time before information was at your fingertips, before TV and even before the automobile.
People tell me all the time that I’ll look back on this and be thankful I did it. What they don’t seem to understand is that I’m already thankful. It can be difficult at times, certainly, but I’m aware every single day of the gift my Grandmother has given me by living to be so very old. It’s given me a perspective I’d never have had otherwise.
When I was a little boy I asked Grandma how old she was. “Ooooooooold” was her answer. For many years that was the extent of what I knew about her. Now, I can say that I’ve gotten to know her as a person.
From time to time, I catch a glimpse of the younger Norma. It’s something in her eyes and the way she carries herself. I no longer see the two-dimensional character I’ve always called “Grandma”, but a person with a long and very interesting history.
I see the young Norma, cutting hair for a living, in business for herself in the 1930’s. I hear her speak of a man named “Peter” who she apparently dated for a time when she was young. “He was quite a dancer” she says, a glint in her eye.
She talks about World War II and Adolph Hitler as though it was yesterday, and bemoans the fact that at 101 it seems like life has gone by in a flash. I’ve gotten to know that the little old lady with wrinkles on top of wrinkles looks in the mirror and still expects to see a 16-year old looking back, that she actually feels sixteen despite her fatigue.
These past two years have been life-changing for me. I value life more than I did before. I appreciate the small moments. I have more appreciation for the fact that the only certainty in life is death. I don’t fear death anymore. I fear not living my life while I’ve got it.
One of my all-time favorite movies is “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. One famous quote that I’ve always loved, but that seems really apropos now is this:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
~ Ferris Bueller~
One day after Grandma is gone I may just skip out altogether and explore the world. I can think of no more fitting way to pay tribute to Norma than to live my life to the fullest.
I’ve experience much of what you are talking about here. It so touches my heart. Drives back and forth to Southern CA from the state of WA add thousands of miles to the car,give you the time to think as you drive. So it has been since August 2012, caring for my parents, but now I do not have that trip to make anymore. What I now realized is there was more to my parents than I ever knew. Although not in their 100s, 88 and 92 is a fair amount of time to live. It is too bad ~ for some reason my parents didn’t share much of their lives until the past 6 months prior to their deaths. Married 66 years, in the same house for 52 years… same neighbors for 49 years… and much of the treasures were released in the last 6 months. Oh how I wish I had asked more questions all those 65 1/2 years I had with them. I so encourage all — ask while you can! Thank you for this post. It was excellent!
Beautiful Rob, the wonderful… value added is that we, your readers, get to experience your life and insights with Norma because you pause to reflect and write. We all appreciate life more and value the insights of aging more because you are living and sharing. Much Aloha Brigid
Please don’t make me cry at work. Wonderful post. Wonderful blog. Thank you for sharing it with us, Rob!
Thanks brother. That means a lot!
This is beautiful, Rob. I am so grateful to you for opening a window into this experience. I feel like I connect more with my own humanity and, oddly, with my aging mother because of this. Thank you.
Another Excellent post 😉 Now that my Grandma is gone, I’m doing just that, trying to see more of the world. I moved far away from Hawaii with my children in the hopes of sharing their life with them as they venture on to college and more. Someday soon I hope to travel to Europe! Much easier to do from DC than Hawaii. While I am doing all of this, I know my Grandma is here with me, guiding me, showing me what’s out there, and deepening the appreciation for my forever home, Hawaii.