A Weekend With Grandma
I always considered myself very close to my family. I pack the boys in the truck whenever I can and head to Staten Island to see my parents, brother, sister-in-law, nieces, nephew, and friends (if/ when there is any time to spare). I enjoy my time with them more than anything. Seeing them reminds me of who I am and how much I am loved. It's also mind-blowing to see how we have grown both individually and collectively. We often share stories about growing up and can laugh for hours at the most ridiculous things. Our love and need for each other is apparent and the kids are strengthening that same adoration and unbreakable bond every time we get together. Having the three generations together for a mini-family reunion is awesome. Until I remember that there aren't just three generations in the house, but four.
Last semester I took a class that examined the many -isms in society and how it impacts our mental health as we journey throughout life. -Isms distort our perceptions of others and also influences how we are seen. I am totally aware and mindful of most of the -isms we discussed...until we got to the chapter on ageism. Sure I knew about ageism in the workplace and was well aware that the elderly are not nearly as reverenced in the U.S. as they are in other parts of the world. But what I hadn't realized was my role in all of it. See, during my trips to my parents' home, I would often creep by my grandmother's room. She is legally blind and cannot always distinguish who is passing by. So I would be as quiet as possible and tip toe along as to not have to enter and have some long drawn out discussion about only-god-knows-what. What an awful way to treat the woman who had birthed and raised my mom!
Now don't get me wrong, she wasn't ever/ isn't the nicest grandma. I cannot say that she is the 'typical African American grandmother'... the hug-giving, warm, encouraging grandma. She was however the strong, independent, always able to lend you some money, brutally honest, cook her behind off grandma. She has my respect and love, but I had done a lousy job at showing it. Turns out... my avoidance of her is a thing! Many, many, many young folks nationwide are leaving grandmas and grandpas sitting alone in a corner somewhere while everyone else interacts, laughs, and eats during holidays, celebrations, and get-togethers all the time. As I read through the chapter for class, it made me reflect on a few things.
How do I want to be treated when I reach my grandma's age? Would I want to be set aside, ignored, or avoided? If I maintain who I am, as social as I am, wouldn't I want to be as close to my family as possible? She has lived for 89 years, there have got to be some impartation she could make in my life. There must be priceless wisdom and perspective that only she could pass down. How much greater of a woman, a wife, a mother could I become if I were to listen to her story an reflections of life?
We are all aging... every day... we grow older. The evidence is in our ever-changing bodies, in our maturing ideas, our values. As we age, what truly matters changes and the impact we leave behind becomes extremely important. Part of the life stage of being elderly is Integrity vs Despair, it involves reflecting on one's life and either moving into feeling satisfied or feeling a deep sense of regret. Success at this stage leads to feelings of wisdom and completeness, while failure results in bitterness, hopelessness, and despair. I would hate to contribute to my grandmother feeling hopeless by adding to the many hardships she's had to face in her 89 years of life. I would much rather glean from her experience, soak up all I can while she is here.
I had my mom pack grandma's bag and picked her up for two nights together at my place. She had only been over once before- just for a few hours. The time was interesting to say the least lol! If you thought taking care of an infant or toddler is hard work, try someone 80+! But it taught me lessons of patience, compassion, and care that I had NEVER known. It stretched me beyond myself and I am glad for the time we spent together. It not only benefitted me, but my boys as well. They were elated to have an overnight guest. They will have memories of her beyond visiting her in a bed or hospital room. They chatted and laughed and served her. I will forever cherish these memories. This weekend with grandma allowed them to see that every member of our family has value...and that value does not depreciate with age.