Sharing Simple Things with Grandmom

“What if we hadn’t been each other at the same time

Would you tell me all the stories from what you were young and in your primce

Would I rock you to sleep

Would you tell me all the secrets you don’t need to keep

Would I still miss you

Or would you then have been mine

If sound is a wave like a wave on the ocean

Moon plays the ocean like a violin.”

Andrew Bird, “Sifters”

So often, the simplest actions take on the greatest meaning.

I don’t know what’s more frustrating—not getting to know my relatives who died when I was young, many of them taking or burying their lives, secrets, heritage, traditions and habits with them; or watching my Grandmother suffer from debilitating arthritis that cripples her with pain, knowing her mind is as sharp as a tack, yet feels burdened with the figurative weight of her aging body, having lived and suffered in this life, in this body, since 1923.

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Miso soup with Grandmom

 

I drove down to Rising Fawn at 10:15 Saturday morning. We sat in the living room of her small apartment and talked, then moved to the dining room table. She pointed me toward a green, single subject wire-bound notebook that showed signs of wear, pages ripped out. As she opened the notebook, I saw her signature handwriting, tall slanted letters that, if a specialist saw them, clearly indicated or showed how arthritis had so significantly affected and changed her right hand.

I shed a tear or two as she asked me to transcribe these pages of account numbers and instructions. It was her will, her final wishes, what she had left, all nearly tracked, documented and updated through now. She can no longer write because of the pain in her right hand.

I, as neatly as I could, copied al of the information. I then watered her plants and prepared a simple meal out of ingredients I brought with me in a grocery bag packed earlier that morning. The same miso broth with mushrooms and kale, cooked sweet potatoes and a small cup of fruit salad, which I knew she would love (and did).

Our conversation floated around boys, marriage, religion, the South, conservatism, parenting, equal rights, you name it. My Grandmother brings a great deal of thought and perspective to these conversations, and I know she enjoys them. Her body having word, aching and pain now dominating, her mind, her Self, preserves, sharp as ever. She lived through the Depression, born of Italian immigrants in New Jersey, and she raised a family—three daughters, my mother being the middle child—and lived most of her life with her husband before coming to live close to my Mom  in Rising Fawn after her husband passed away years ago. I am amazed not by her longevity, but by her humility, honesty, strength and grace. While she did not lead a life of glitz and glamour, or even ease, her heart and compassion still shine so brightly in her blue eyes, her skin.

As I got to the last page of the transcription, I read aloud the last note on the page. Her signature, and beneath it, with capital letters and underlined, “Have Fun!”

We laughed together.

“I could sit around and cry all day every day about this,” she said. “But you just have to laugh from time to time.”

If only I listened, instead of crying so much as I collect my own thoughts here.

I finished the transcription, and asked her to sign the latest version, complete with her great closing words. She grasped a ball point pen and wrote, in larger, uncharacteristically scrawling text, under her name, “Have Fun!”

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