Monday, September 10, 2007

The Terrible Eighties

I drove down to see my grandmother a moment ago at the assisted living home. Old people were jockeying for positions at the dinner table when I arrived. "Eight minutes till dinner," the nice lady told me in the reception area. I had eight minutes to visit and sadly, I was relieved. I normally stay thirty minutes and have been going twice a week. I have been torturing myself and am a glutton for punishment.

I found my grandmother lying in the bed looking listless. "Suppertime?" she asked me as I stepped in the room. "Oh, it's you." Don't be so happy to see me, I thought.

"The food here is terrible," my grandmother complained. It smelled delicious though and made my stomach grumble. I wanted to stay for dinner, but wasn't sure of the protocol involved. My grandmother then hobbled on into her den to have a seat. "You ought to be ashamed," she told me. "You ought to be ashamed for having your father buy you a house. A grown man should see about those things."

"I would have been homeless Memaw," I said. "I lost everything in the divorce."

"You are a lucky man," she said shaking and waving her index finger at me scornfully.

"You hungry?" I asked, trying to change the subject to more kinder small talk.

"Oh, I can't eat these days," she protested. "I am just wasting away. I think I will die soon."

That was enough to cheer me up (sarcasm.) My grandmother is a stern, ostentatious, surly old woman.

"Do you really enjoy me coming twice a week?" I asked her with a rare candidness.

"You and your mother are the only ones that come to see me," she replied, not answering my question.

This woman has five children and fourteen grandchildren. They all shy away from her. I have been trying to be "of service" to others by going twice a week. I have only recently started. I can see why, now, that no one comes. It is the most unpleasant experience. Getting a tooth pulled would be a far kinder happening.

Later this afternoon, I was talking to my mother. She had brought Maggie a bag of various and assorted dog treats.

"Mom, was Memaw ever nice? Was she ever kind?" I asked my mother after telling her of my visit.

"Your grandmother used to laugh and sit up with us kids at night reading stories," mom said. "She was a wonderful cook and would cook the most delicious and nutritious meals in a loving way. She got pregnant with your uncle in her forties and then your grandfather had his heart attack and she was never the same."

"I love her, but she makes me feel terrible," I told my mother.

"She makes me feel small as well," my mother replied. "So I understand. But it helps me by you going. I have noticed her being more nice lately since you started to go. She actually paid me a compliment the other day about my hair."

I gasped. Memaw? A compliment? The very foundation of this good earth must have shook and floundered. I felt better at my mother's words that some good was coming about by my seeing my grandmother. I wish she was like my father's mother who could do no harm in my eye. I would be down to visit Sally Lou almost every night. She was such a kind soul.

"You are still going to go, aren't you?" My mother asked as she stepped out towards her car to go to Weight Watchers.

"Yeah," I replied. "But I am going to need some tranquilizers afterwards."

Mom laughed and gave me a hug. There is always one "Memaw" in everyone's family, isn't there? I will continue to be of service to my grandmother and love her despite all her foibles and misgivings. Love will make you turn a blind eye as they say. I hope you all have a great night. I am off to AA.


Glenda J said...

Andrew--My maternal grandmother and yours sound like 2 peas in a pod!!! I applaude your "service to others" but please don't let her tear your down. I think you should time all your visits to correspond to dinner! Please remember there are others out there that would LOVE your attention--you might even find an adopted grandma! Maybe you could help some other seniors to stay in their homes--share your cooking or help them with other tasks. Just a suggestion. Thanks for writing such a wonderful blog!!!!

Cheryl said...

The tranquilizers got me laughing! I too think you should time your visits to correspond with dinner. A perfect excuse to scoot out.

Going to Panera's before visiting my mother was a great idea and I'll do it again. That way I have some time just for me, and I'm in a better mood visiting my Mom. The first thing she says to me is 'can you sweep the floor?'


We like to call "our Mewmaw," THE QUEEN B...miserable, manipulative, and living in the past...thanks for reminding me that we're not the only one experiencing, I'm off to forward this to my mom so she can be reminded that others have to deal with what she does-even though her Memaw-our queen B is her Mil.
You were close with you dad's mom, correct? The one you really liked, right? Or did I misread somewhere?

Le Fleur said...

I think maybe my mother's mother would have been like this had she lived, but her surlyness had more to do with her being color concious--that is synomomous to racism in a black family since you seem to only like people of a lighter shade even if you're as dark as tar yourself--than anything. Anyhow, I don't think I could be as nice as you if put in the same situation so kudos on that and I'm glad some good is comming of it.

Josie Two Shoes said...

I have informed my children that should I become grouchy, bitter and mean in my old age, they should just shoot me and put me out of my misery... and theirs. :-)

You are a real blessing to your mother in that you choose to continue to visit in order to make visits go a little easier for her. I can see why no one else wants to go!

2 LMZ FARMS said...

No matter how rude your Grandmother can be toward you, she loves you. Please continue visiting her, I lost my Grandmother 2 years ago, and yes, she had gotten to be rude like yours and I had gotten to where I didn't want to go and see her and now there isn't a minute that don't go by and I wish I could go back in time and visit her.

Nikita1 said...

Andrew...well done for visiting your grandmother...they sometimes act like that because they shy away from others..they feel sometimes worhtless, I think! So please, go visit! You will be a star in heaven for that! Great for going again to the AA, hope it went well!

greglo said...

Hi Andrew,

I love this post!

I have had two wonderful grandmothers. One is still alive todya, in her nineties, still gardening, cooking, working in the house, with my mom's help... she is a lady from a different time, she was around when the first car arrived in our little southern France town, she saw a whole world changing... and is still asking me question today about the internet. A few months ago, she was telling me...." you know, it's weird, I'm an old woman, but in truth, I don't feel the least older as when I was eighteen..."
Anyway... great post!

Have a great day!


simonsays said...

Visiting a miserable grandma is a hard thing to do and I applaud you. Dinner really is a good reason to have to go when you just can't bear it any longer...good timing! Keep up the good work!

Moonroot said...

My paternal grandmother was like this.

I work with elderly people one day a week too, and although not all of them are grumpy, I've come to the conclusion that those who complain about everything are either lonely, isolated, bored, scared that their time is running out, or all of the above! They have too much time to sit and just focus on these negatives, and as a result the first person they encounter gets blasted with it all. I look on it as giving them a chance to vent it all. Try to realise it's not about YOU it's about THEM. Listen but don't take it on board!

Just my 10 cents, anyway.

Jenn said...

That was my dad's mom. She was always so miserable to us kids that I stopped thinking of her as a grandmother. Good luck keeping up with the visits. I'm sure she really enjoys it, but won't show it. Maybe you two could talk about her cooking?

C. R. Morris said...

It's funny, my dad's mother became nicer in her old age. My mom used to say, "Granny will life to spit us." When she died, I didn't want to let her go. I know what she says hurts and you're a strong person than I am. Bless you!