Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Gift of Grandmothers

A nice quote about grandmothers,
although kind of creepy if you know the context
in which it is said in the play itself....
The last two weekends we took two three-hour road trips up the I-5 corridor. Why? My husband's Grandma Shelby was recently diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. The doctors don't know how long she has left--a few weeks? A few months? We want to spend as much time with her as we can and give her a chance to see our kids before she passes on.

Grandma Shelby, Adam, Marcus, Oliver

I don't know Grandma Shelby that well, but I do know that she isn't afraid to be involved in her grandchildren's lives. The first time I met her was at my brother-in-law's wedding. She sized up me and David (my boyfriend and her oldest grandson) and said, "Why isn't this you yet? You're next!"

Grandma Shelby - Pictures by Grammy Pics
My own grandmothers have been a big blessing in my life. I remember learning to knit and sew from my mom's mom, Grandma Donna. True, I didn't get much further than knitting fuzzy scarves and my grandma's signature dishcloth, and yes, I still have the pieces of the unfinished quilt I started at age 12, but I have fond memories of the projects we worked on together. Grandma Donna was never much of a conversationalist, and working together with needle and thread was the best way to get to know her and share something in common.

Marcus and Grandma Donna
Grandma Donna has suffered from Alzheimer's for the past year or two. She moved into a memory care unit in our town a couple months ago, and my own mom has been very diligent going to visit her. I paid a long overdue visit last week, making quite the splash among the nursing home residents with two kids in the stroller and one sitting on the handlebars. It's hard to know whether Grandma Donna recognized us much (She asked my mom, "Are you a relative?"), but she enjoyed seeing the baby and smiled and clucked at him.

My dad's mom, Grandma Monica, has never lived nearby. She was always the one we took vacations to see, in Northern Washington or sunny Arizona. She's the grandma who sent us T-shirts with pictures of cacti or Native American designs. She's the grandma who took us to the pool or the miniature golf course or the Egypt exhibit at the museum. In some ways, her story is the most fascinating. Her father, Carl Heidenreich, was a modern art painter who fled Germany when the Nazis seized power and she herself emigrated from Germany to New York before WWII. Her health has been failing over the last few years, but I hope that someday my own kids will get to meet her.

My third grandma, Grandma Patsy, was my father's stepmom, and not even that anymore since she and my grandfather divorced a few years ago. But even though we're not technically related, she is still the grandma I'm closest to. She gives great hugs and thoughtful presents (like the dining room table set and hutch she picked up from an estate sale in hopes I would be able to use it someday!). No matter how much I try to talk her out of it, she insists on paying whenever we go out for lunch. She knows how to tell a story as big as Texas (that's where she's from, and it shows), but she also knows how to listen to stories too. I think that's what makes her such a good grandma, the fact that she's a good listener. I call her regularly, much more regularly than I call my girlfriends, and we chat about my life and hers.

Grandma Patsy stopping by the hospital
to see newborn Marcus

All of these women have been a great influence in my life, and I'm excited to see how David's mom and my own mom are eager to participate in the lives of my own kids. The gift of grandmothers is a great blessing, and even if it means a three hour road trip, it's something I don't want my children to do without.

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