Grandma and I have fallen into a routine of sorts.
I go in and help her pick her clothes for the day, wash, and dress. I get her dirty laundry, bring it home to wash, hang up the shirts and fold her socks.
It’s funny the way something so foreign can become so familiar so fast.
Smells you used to notice when you walked in the door don’t seem nearly so strong by now, and strange sounds in the hallway fade into the background.
There’s really no secrets between us at this point. It’s our new “normal.”
I noticed that her papery skin was getting dry and cracked so I picked up some Aveeno lotion and brought it with me. I was rubbing it across her shoulders and my mind was wandering at all the weekends and summer vacations I’d spent at her house. And this is our life now.
I brushed her hair. I trimmed her toenails and fingernails and painted them ‘shell pink’–her favorite. Rosebud’s favorite, too. Then I got her Taco Bell because she’ll be 89-years-old this year, and I think if you live that long you ought to be able to eat what you want, when you want–salt or no salt. And if what you want is a Mexican pizza, two tacos, and a root beer, then so be it.
I have no idea why I’m even writing about any of this except to process it myself.
She looks at me the way I used to look at her. Expectant. Like I have the answers, when really I’m just trying to figure out how to manage all of this.
All of our lives, grandparents have this special ability to make us feel so loved no matter what.
Growing up, we know our parents love us, but they also carry the burden of disciplining us. There’s always that risk of getting in trouble–because they are charged with shaping us as people.
Grandparents, on the other hand, just get to love without the hindrance of the “you can’t do that’s” and “I said no’s.”
Or at least if you’re as lucky as I’ve been.
My grandparents had this special ability to make me feel so….precious.
Loved isn’t the right word. And neither is special.
They made me feel like I made their world a beautiful place.
When I would spend the night at Grandma’s house–whether I was 6, or 16–she would come into my room at night, pray with me and kiss me and tell me how much she loved me.
And I believed her.
That no matter what I did in life and no matter where I went, her love and her prayers would go, too.
Yesterday before I left the nursing home, I helped her change into her nightgown–all of the awkwardness about modesty and whatnot washed away by this point. I leaned down to hug her and she kissed me on the cheek and told me “Thank you. I love you so much. You’re precious to me.”
And just like that I was 5-years-old again, holding Grandma’s hand as we took one of our walks.
I cried the whole way home because it’s hard to see the hands that cooked you a million pancake breakfasts fumble over buttons.
I cried the whole way home because I’d give about a million dollars to go back in time for just one day–to get up at 1 in the morning just to eat cinnamon toast and watch an old movie together–for no other reason than to be together.
But mainly, I cried the whole way home because even now, when there’s nothing she can really do or give, she still makes me feel so loved and so precious.
One year for Mother’s Day, we got Grandma a wall hanging that said “God couldn’t be everywhere, so he made grandparents.”
And with my grandparents, I’ve gotten to experience the truest, most unconditional love this side of Heaven.
And I hope you have, too.
Love and Other Drugs,
E. Hunter W.