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Ten Things of Thankful: With Help from Grandma

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?

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Thanks for oh-so-many things, but particularly family.

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Ten Things of Thankful

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  1. Your posts have been inspiring! I know my day as caretaker of my parents or in-laws will come all too soon. Dementia definitely forces one to appreciate the small things daily...even if they are the same day in and day out. Glad your father is on the road to recovery!

    Finding $100 would be a fabulous find, but I'd love to be wealthy enough to leave large sums of money in random spots!

    1. Wouldn't it be nice to anonymously gift Benjamins? Whoever it was, certainly brought some cheer to my parents.

  2. Ahhhhh such a gorgeous end to your post, with your parents' windfall. That's awesome. And I hope your dad has a speedy recovery and starts feeling comfier soon.

    I LOVE your TToT according to Grandma. That's so cool, and reminds me that there are so many little things I take entirely for granted. Thank you.

    1. I've learned so much this past little while. Grandma is a great teacher!

  3. How much joy can one find in simple things?! Your nanna does it very well.
    I applaud you for recognizing the blessings and thankfullness in these simple things and your Grandma. It's not easy I guess, keeping your respect and calm in the every day conversations, litterally!
    What a wonderful thing your Dad is recovering, eventhough he feels 'trampled'... His battlescar looks really scary, but how great it is he can be with your mom and your family for many more years to come because of it!
    Being apart for some time makes the home coming that more special I find. Having to spend much time apart from my love makes the time we have together so much better. I think this is what keeps us going strong....
    Welcome home again Kristi! You're a wonderful daughter and granddaughter for doing all of this. I respect your parents even more for taking care of your grandmother. It must be very hard in times.
    Lots of love and good vibes send your and your loved ones way...

    1. Thanks, Bianca. I've had a wonderful past couple of weeks, and certainly have made many memories. My grandma is dealing with her Alzheimer's gracefully, my dad is healing well, and my mom continues to be a pillar of strength to us all. I'm doing my best to follow awesome examples, but I'm still a work in progress.

  4. OH my goodness, Kristi ... I think this is my favorite list so far... so beautiful visually and inspirationally... best to your whole family and enjoy your return home...

    1. Thank you. I've really enjoyed the past couple of weeks, and I'm enjoying being back home now, too.

  5. I loved your grandmother's list and totally reminded me of some of the things my own grandmother would say as she got older in the last few years of my life. Miss her so, but am also very thankful for all the time I got to spend with her, too. Safe trip home and the end also made me smile to your parents' good fortune :)

    1. Glad I could remind you of some of your precious memories.

      I was so happy for my parents. I think if "Benny" knew that a recent heart patient received one of his bills, he'd be happy, too.

  6. Not sure if my comment went through, but just wanted to tell you again save home and loved your grandmother's list and totally reminded me again of my own grandmother as she got older. And yay to your parents' good fortune too :)

    1. It went through; I just have the approval thing and I didn't get to the comments until later. :-)

  7. Kristi, this is just a beautiful list and a lovely tribute to your Grandma's ability to find beauty and appreciation in simple things. I think it's a great lesson to us all. Best to all of you - may you all continue to be well and happy and heal.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. My grandma is a great example to me.

  8. such a difficult task (the caring for a person with Alzheimer's) the strain can be subtle and un-noticeable, yet still be felt at times least expected. You seem to have that quality (as did Phyllis caring for her mother) that allows for the positive, however fleeting, to come out of situations and benefit everyone.
    a very affirming Post

    1. I was just there for a couple of weeks; but I learned to more greatly appreciate those who are caregivers for months and years on end. Kudos to Phyllis.

  9. Kristi, you are such a beautiful person. Everything about this post is simply wonderful.
    I'm a touch worried about what will happen to my grandma and parents when they can't live on their own anymore. (Although, I doubt the day will ever come for Grandma. She's 89, lives on her own, and has absolutely no plans or desires to live anywhere but her home.) They live a good distance away, so it will be difficult.

    1. I do wish I lived closer to my parents, because it would be nice if I could offer respite to my mom on a more regular basis. Our grandmas sound similar; mine lived in her own house by herself up until last year. She moved in with my parents then, at age 96. She is an independent soul, and a tad bit frustrated to not be physically able to do everything she once did.

  10. I do home health care part time and take care of a woman who has dementia, so I understand the Groundhog Day feeling. It takes a lot of patience. Your grandma is lucky to have loving people caring for her!
    I would love to be able to be like "Benny"! What a wonderful thing to do.

    1. What a wonderful service you provide! I think that people benefit from being in their own home setting as long as possible.

  11. You have been a blessing to your parents and your grandmother!

  12. I wish I could anonymously give $100 to people! Maybe I could start with $5... and I'm with your grandma on the Burt's Bees :)

  13. I love the wonderful list of things that your Grandma is thankful for -- I am glad you had this time to spend with her even if it was difficult being away from home. Very glad your Dad is doing so well, too. $100 is certainly something to be thankful A thrilling end to their week.


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