As a child I was surrounded by my grandparents and great-grandparents. My parents were 18/19 when they started our little family. My grandparents 40, my great grandparents 60.
Similar to many American families, divorce struck our family and we really needed the support of my grandparents-great grandparents. I practically lived with Grandma and Grandpa. Heck, today, they would be just about that age that we feminists are having our children.
Ain’t no thang in that 40 ovary game.
My grandparents did everything for us during times where my parents were – figuring it out. My grandma stayed at home and cared for us. She was the busiest woman I’d ever met. There was no a moment to wait, relax or sit. She was always moving. I, of course, loved that. Let’s go! I’m always up for shopping and driving around the city. My grandfather, worked all day. He made the life for this family. He worked long, hard hours in his younger years and that paid off dividends in his later years.
So, here I am, 30 and realizing things are starting to change. So. Freaken. Fast.
When you have young grandparents you have the luxury of enjoying them for many years. But, time is a fickle thing. Time does some nasty things. Time creates a sense of false security- just more time- just once more- if I only had more time. One more minute and one more breath.
I’m writing this as we drive away from the family that cared for me when my parents were absent. The people that held my hand and led me through my childhood. They rocked me, encouraged me, fed me, clothed me, loved me. Many times, I was the apple of their eye. The first girl in a family full of boys. The sassy one that kept them on their toes. The steadfast yet flexible one. They built me and I’ve been gone from them for years. One state away through high school, college, marriage, career and family. Still, one state away. Always waving – goodbye! See you soon! But, today’s goodbye was different. As we drove away sentimental items in tow I can’t help but deeply and intensely feel the change, deep in my bones. I feel it so much it hurts and comes out as ice sharp tears. Knots in my throat and full blown belly ache. My grandparents have come to a new life stage: dependency. They aren’t traveling. They aren’t leaving the house as much. Grandma isn’t busy. She’s not even driving.
Aging hurts. Is it just selfish? I don’t want to see them like this. I want to go back. Back would mean so much pain – and I know that. It’s not possible and I know that, too. It’s not the wrinkles that bother me or the gray hair. It’s the early signs of losing their sense of self. You know, the… Oh, gesh, that’s so sad- I never want to end up like that, kind of thing. We are our identities. When you lose your sense of self and understanding of what life means for you… What are you doing here?
I saw my great-grandma (Nana) yesterday. 95. Ninety five freaken years old. Glorious. How is that even possible? The stories she would have for us… Vast… If only she could talk. She stopped talking 6 months ago. If her 40,50,60 year old self saw herself- she would not be happy. As I was masking my tears and picking my jaw up from the ground, I, again, became selfish. Why? I wanted her back. For just one minute. Tell me the story about when I was sick at school and you had to pick me up and give me soup. Tell me about my Papa and how you met. Make me one of your little dolls with the knitted dress that I took for granted and didn’t think about saving. Tell me. Instead, we sat there- strangers. I didn’t know this woman and she didn’t know me.
I took photos. Too painful to look at – I can’t see the joy in them. Again, just selfish. I took a close up of her hands because those are and were her hands. When I was born she said, “oh my goodness, look at her beautiful hands!” And now, as she nears the end, the only thing that caught my attention was her beautiful hands.
Those hands picked cotton as a child, they held a pencil as she learned to write her name, they held her husband and children. They bathed four girls, diapered, fed, rocked. They held grandchildren and great grandchildren and this weekend her great-great grandson, Zaccai. Those hands have accomplished more than can ever be imagined. As I opened chocolate after chocolate for her and placed them delicately in her hands I thought. This. This could be the last time I see her sweet, soft hands working. She’s worked for 95 years.
How do you let them age? We grow old to turn young. Regression and hopefully softly and safely into the arms of the one who loves us most.