Rare are the moments I am at a loss for words. I promised my Grandma I’d write a blog just for her; but what could possibly be worthy? While visiting my 91-year-old Gram in the hospital yesterday, she was confused, as she always gets when spending time in the hospital. I had never heard the term before, but my Mother told me it’s “Sundowner’s Syndrome” & common in elderly hospital patients. Makes sense, as Gram appears to have her wits about her more so during the day, but becomes gravely disoriented at night. At any rate, my Aunt Sue was explaining to her that I had begun writing and putting it on the computer. There has never been a computer in my Grandparent’s home, and the concept of a blog was too much to get into, but Grandma asked that I write for her. What she actually wanted was for me to write an apology letter to Champlain Valley Physician’s Hospital, because she fears they don’t know she’s “upstairs”, and that they aren’t going to be very happy when they find out she’s rented a room in their house without their knowledge. Since we seemed to have gotten that straightened out with her nurse, I’m going to move onto more poignant qualities my Grandma epitomizes.
She has taught us many things over the years – things I think we didn’t even realize we were embracing and adoring her for – until now. In the hospital with three broken ribs, a collapsed lung, oxygen, I.V. drips, horrific bruising, and a chest tube – she would like her hair done. Grandma taught us there is nothing a girl can’t conquer with killer hair and a tube of lipstick.
Our Grandma was a progressive one – another characteristic I didn’t value until I grew older. She and Pepere had FIVE kids (although, being my Grandparents, I’m quite certain they never fornicated, so I have NO idea how that happened). With five children, Pepere AND Grandma worked full time jobs. Pepere’s breakfasts, lunches, and dinners were always prepared, always on time, and never from the frozen food aisle. If that weren’t enough to make me feel like less of a woman, anyone who knew my Grandma would rave about how one could “eat off the floor in her house”! I recall spending many nights at Grandma and Pepere’s house, waking up at 5:00am to the smell of breakfast cooking and the sound of a vacuum cleaner roaring. The house was quite literally spotless. Never would you find dirty dishes in the sink, a pile of laundry on the floor, or a speck of dust on the hutch. Not only that, but every piece of laundry was nicely pressed. EVERY PIECE. Gram ironed dress shirts, blouses, pants (a.k.a. slacks), skirts, dresses, t-shirts, bed sheets (who does that?!), and probably even the bathroom towels! Grandma taught us that a well-fed husband in a squeaky clean house is a happy husband.
In addition to working all day, cooking, and cleaning, Grandma still had time to devote to her five children and thirteen grandchildren. Need boo-boos kissed? Go cry to Gram! Need something ironed? Bring it to Gram! Can’t balance your checkbook? Bring it to Gram! Need to know how to cook something? Call Gram! Too lazy to cook? Go visit Gram! Your kid needs babysitting? Bring it to Gram! Ever since I can recall, Grandma and Pepere’s house has been the keystone of our family’s existence. A little Grand Central Station right in Perry’s Mills, NY! Family coming and going in a constant, wonderful, heartwarming flow. Always welcomed, never turned away, never judged, and rarely reprimanded (unless you were caught sliding down the stairs or swinging on the pole in the basement – but we won’t talk about that here). Grandma taught us there is always ALWAYS time for family.
Sitting with Grandma last night, watching her stare in confusion at her index finger as she tried to tear at the tape and remove her oxygen sensor, was a little heart breaking. Over and over she asked, “Susan, what the hell is this thing?!” Over and over, Aunt Sue gently reminded her it was her oxygen sensor and that she needed to leave it on. “Oh. Okay. But it doesn’t belong to me. They’re going to be mad if they find out I took this home! I have to give it back to them.” Even in her very fragile, very ill, very confused state, her morals haven’t slipped one iota. Grandma taught us to always be honest.
The evening nurse came in to check Gram’s pain level and let her know her supper would be in shortly. “Well isn’t that nice of you to cook for me?! You don’t have to do that. I’ll be downstairs in a minute and I’ll fix my own supper,” she argued. The nurse went along with it and told her he wore many hats. “I have to run downstairs and change into my chef outfit. You stay right here, and your supper will be up,” he assured her. I’ve honestly never seen anyone so thankful for hospital food. She thanked them and told them how delicious it was! She apologized for not being able to eat it all, but reiterated how very good it was. She had previously asked Aunt Sue and me to get rid of the food she couldn’t eat – she didn’t want them to feel badly that she’d wasted any food. As soon as the tray was gone, she shoved the blankets aside and made like she was getting out of her chair. “Mom, where are you going?” Aunt Sue asked as she covered her back up. “Well, they were nice enough to cook for me, I can’t leave them with all the dishes!” Gram quipped. Grandma taught us to be thankful for even our most disgusting meals. Grandma taught us to be hard-working and never leave the mess to someone else.
Before I’d headed to the hospital yesterday, I read a cousin’s post on Facebook. She posted: “Sitting here at CVPH with Gram & Pep, they are saying the rosary together. In April they will have been married for 68 years – how lucky am I to have such great grandparents on my mother’s side as well as my father’s side?—feeling blessed.” How blessed, indeed. Neither of my parents are overly religious, but it was very important to Grandma we be raised with a strong faith. Gram and Pep were in church every Sunday, and as often as the priest would let them in during Lent. If one were absent, the congregation knew something was seriously wrong, and I’d be getting questioned in the grocery store. Whenever we spent Saturday night at Grandma and Pepere’s, we wouldn’t be waking up to the smell of breakfast cooking and the sound of a vacuum cleaner roaring; we’d be waking up to the smell of Aqua-Net and the sound of Grandma’s agitated pleas, “Get out of bed! We’re going to be late for church!” No time to brush our teeth? That was okay, Grandma always had those cool Breath Savers with the minty green centers. We thought it was amazing to get candy for breakfast! Grandma taught us to have faith, to not fall asleep in church (like Pep), and always fix your hair before you go to God’s house.
I didn’t actually witness the following, but apparently Grandma wasn’t taking too kindly to being admitted to the hospital. We are, after all, talking about a woman who broke her hip a few years back and swore she’d be fine if we’d just give her an Advil. Tough as nails, my Gram, and she’d decided the doctors and nurses were forming a conspiracy against her. Not going down without a fight, she threw a right hook at one of the doctors. Grandma taught us to stand our ground.
Grandma feels old, and weak, and unattractive. At 91 I suppose she should feel old. However, to her family, she is pretty inside and out. Her beautiful white hair and gorgeous skin – the glowing look of love when surrounded by family. She is strong beyond any woman (and most men) I’ve ever known. She loves unconditionally, fights like a warrior, maintains her grace, and is the mortar which holds our family tightly together. Grandma taught us how to…be.