Last week, I explained about how caring for my grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s, caused me to reflect on how many things I take for granted: knowing relatives’ names, how they are related, and whether or not they are still alive. As I’ve spent more time with Grandma, I’ve become accustomed to the rhythm of her days. I’ve felt a bit like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, as each day seems the same as the previous, including the conversations we have. Included in the repeated conversations is advice to never get old and expressed frustration for not being able to remember significant life events. Several times throughout my stay, Grandma would be stunned by the answers to the questions: Are my in-laws dead? Is my husband dead? Did I attend the funerals? I hope I did, but I don’t remember. How could I forget something like that? Even amongst the horror of sudden realization that loved ones have died, Grandma expresses her own Ten Things of Thankful, all day long, every day. I’m sharing her list this week.
1. The bathroom sink. It is so pretty.
2. Little squares boxes of tissue. Whoever thought of this had a really good idea. These boxes don’t take up as much room on the counter.
3. Burt’s Bees Lip Balm. This stuff is so good. (Grandma can’t leave the bathroom without applying more.)
4. The shower. Last summer, before Grandma moved in with them, my parents had their bathroom remodeled. The renovations included replacing the old tub and shower combo with a beautiful, walk-in shower complete with safety bars and hand-held shower wand. They really shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble for me.
|Photo taken summer 2013 after the remodel|
5. The kitchen floor. No matter how much it gets used, it still stays so nice.
6. The bird feeders my Dad has placed near the windows, so Grandma can watch her feathered—or furry--friends. She likes to tell of the time that it was snowy, and there was a bird—a big one—that hopped up on top of the wheel of the truck. He stayed dry there. I thought that was so smart of him.
7. The big animals that come by occasionally to help my Dad trim the grass. I don’t see any of those big animals today, but we saw a whole bunch of them the other day. Big ones!
8. Music books. All of these books just fascinate me. They have music that we sing at church.
9. Clocks. It took me a while to figure out this one. (The man on the bicycle constantly swings back and forth.)
10. Family. Your mom and dad are so good to me. Thank you for helping me. I sure hope your dad gets better soon. Oh, you’re still here. I dreamed you went home already. I’m so glad you’re here.
I’m glad I’m here, too, Grandma. What a wonderful time we have had together! It’s been said, “You love those you serve and you serve those you love,” and I think that is true. Grandma, in your unassuming, mild-mannered way—but with a healthy dose of “can-do” attitude—you have devoted your life to the service of family. These past twelve days have been no exception. Yes, I might have helped you with basic care, but you have given me precious memories and understanding. Thank you, Grandma. I love you.
As for my dad, he is amazingly chipper for just having had open-heart surgery. One of his first requests of me was to take photos of his 6-inch-long battle scar. His doctor told him it will take six weeks before he feels as good as he did the day before the surgery, but that after that he should notice much improvement.
Though Dad is still in pain, his sense of humor is intact. He wonders where “slight discomfort” is supposed to fall on the 0-10 pain scale, because he feels like he’s been trampled by buffalo.
Dad is thankful for pain medication, but even more than that, for the skilled care he received at Oregon Science and Health University. I’m thankful my dad’s new valve should keep his heart ticking for many years to come.
I’m headed home today, wishing as never before that it were possible to be in two places at once. I have definitely missed John—I think this is the longest period of time we’ve been apart in almost-27 years of marriage—and am eager to see him again. At the same time, I recognize better than ever just how physically and emotionally taxing it is on my mom to care for Grandma. Although my parents have good friends who are willing to help, and access to a wonderful senior daycare program that Grandma enjoys, I wish I could be of more help to them.
Lest I end this Ten Things of Thankful List on a sad note, let me mention one more thing: I’m thankful for the generous kindness of strangers. After returning home from the hospital, my dad asked my mom to go to Costco and buy an electric kettle. My mom did as he requested. As my dad was opening up the box, he noticed a folded piece of paper stuck inside.
He pulled it out and discovered this:
Just a day or two before, my mom had told me that there have been numerous reports of people finding $100 bills tucked inside merchandise at stores. Each bill is signed “Benny.” Some incredible generous person has been spreading random acts of kindness. It made my parents’ day! To “Benny”: Thank you!
Today is a travel day for me. I will publish comments, respond, and visit blogs as I can, but please understand that it might take me a while.
Please consider joining the hop, though. What are you thankful for this week?
Thanks for oh-so-many things, but particularly family.
A Fly on our (Chicken Coop) Wall, Considerings, Finding Ninee, Getting Literal</ a>, I Want Backsies, Mother of Imperfection, Rewritten, Thankful Me, The Meaning of Me, The Wakefield Doctrine