Sunday, January 31, 2010
A Good Old Day with Grandma
Sometimes, but not as often as I should, I schedule a day for just me and my grandmother. I always look forward to a day spent with just the two of us. It's a day when, without distractions, I can absorb little things about her that I will want to remember forever. Grandma is closing in on her ninth decade on earth, but is in wonderful health. She still lives independently in the home she raised her family in, and still gardens like crazy in the summer. Up until about five years ago, she still cut her own grass with a gas push mower.
One of the things I look forward to doing on our days together is working on the "Grandma Remembers" book that I gave her a few years ago. It's a simple book filled with questions that she can answer in writing, so these things will not be forgotten. Unfortunately, grandma's relationship with the book has its quirks. She does not want to write in the book. I don't know why this is, but I found a work-around where I read her the questions and write them down for her so she doesn't have to be bothered with the writing aspect. The other problem is that I simply gave her the book too late in life. While grandma has a sharp minded and keen memory for many things, her recall of the names of people and places has declined. This makes her frustrated, and motivates her mid-question to spend time routing around in an old pile of papers in order to find the name of a street she used to live on or the correct spelling for something. I think this makes the experience of filling the book less enjoyable for her.
"Do you want to work on the book today?" I asked her.
"Ach no! I don't feel like using my brain today," she replied. After lunch and a brief shopping trip, Grandma just wanted to have a cup of tea and visit with me in the living room. For the next few hours, she spoke lively about things that interested her such as history, current events, cooking, and family news. She is not shy about announcing her opinions. Talking about these things is apparently a whole lot less taxing on the mind than trying to remember who your best friend was in the early 1940's. Okay, I get it.
She asked me if I liked the pumpkin-raisin-nut bread that she gave us, and I thanked her and told her we ate it. "It was very healthy," she reminded me. Yes. Then we talked about baking and Grandma lamented that she did not bake as much as she used to since there is no one around to eat it. We recalled some specialties she used to bake and I pointedly asked her whether some of those treasured recipes were written down anywhere. It turns out yes, they are written down. In German. "They can be translated," she tells me but I'm not optimistic.
"Do you get the Reader's Digest?" she asked. Um, no. She informs me that there is some good information in there and then gives me an issue to take home. The Readers Digest is what I call a "grandparent universal". No matter who you are or where you are from, there is probably a Reader's Digest in your grandparent's house. There are also "tea towels" and maybe even a "bed spread." I am sure that somewhere on the other side of the earth, there is a grandparent trying to slip a Reader's Digest into the saddle bag of a camel belonging to their grandchild in hopes that the younger generation will embrace the wonders of this informative publication.
"I had such a good time today!" she told me half a dozen times before I left.
As I walked away from her back door I always look around to absorb everything. The dormant shrubs, the worn and faded decorations in the garden, and grandma waving good bye from inside the glass door. It's like a picture I take in my mind every time, because I know that this moment will one day be one of the many moments that in the future will be called "the good old days".