Sunday, May 14, 2006

Remember to Call Mom... and Grandma

Sunny - Hi 103 Lo 76 for Baghdad, Iraq
Rain - Hi 53 Lo 45 for Northern KY, USA

Song of the week: Veronica,
Elvis Costello


Before I get started on my post, I wanted to share this with you. In last week's post I mentioned Rosie our cat that had died a few year's ago. When we buried her, a hummingbird appeared and hovered right in front of Michael and me for quite some time. I don't believe in reincarnation, but I do believe God gives us things to comfort us in times of sorrow. I remember smiling and thinking about Rosie. Now whenever I see a hummingbird, I think of our girl. When we buried Cloey, Michael said, "I wonder what we will see that reminds us of him." Well, yesterday for a couple of hours the little guy to the right stood outside our back door.... gripin'...and complainin'. When I saw him I laughed out loud.... This was a common expression found on our kitty's face... The constant squawking a reminder of the contant meowing Cloey did when he wasn't getting what he wanted when he wanted... It only makes sense. This little guy is ticked because he has a girl's name.... Robin..... Even after his Mom found him, he continued to gripe... just like our boy, Cloey...

Saturday morning I asked Michael what I should blog about... I was at a loss for a topic. And Michael being the diplomatic soul that he is... said, "What do you want to blog about?" I finally decided I would do something flowery for Mother's Day. Keep it short and sweet with some pretty pictures pilfered from the internet. Quick and easy and little thought required on my part...

Saturday "evening" my mother and I went to my grandparents. (These are my father's parents... not my mom's.) They live in what is referred to as "assisted living"... What is assisted living? In Kentucky (because it is different from state to state), it means that you have a place- with your own furnishings, you come and go as you please, you are responsible for your own day to day life, financially and otherwise, BUT the amenities are housekeeping comes in once a week to do the vacuuming and dusting and you receive meals in a dining room along with all the other residents. There's a gym, a bank, a hair salon run by T.J., even a chapel. For those that no longer drive, a bus runs a few times a week to the grocery, pharmacy, mall and doctors appointments. If you so desire, group trips are weekly -museums, restaurants, the casino, the horsetrack, etc etc... Thursday is always Happy Hour. There is always something on the calendar. The point is even though folks have slowed down... they don't have to be isolated and alone...

I love my grandparents dearly, I love my mother dearly... but dysfunction should be our last name.... I don't have the energy or the intestinal fortitude to go into detail today on this topic.... but I suspect we all carry baggage on that front in one form or another.

Anyway, my grandmother invited us over for dinner Saturday, because the "home" (as she likes to call it) was having a special Mother's Day dinner. So, dinner is actually "supper" which begins at 4:00. My grandmother requested we arrive at 3:30 to get a good seat... [Note to self: don't eat lunch when you plan to have dinner at grandma's.] So, we chatted briefly in their apartment and then went downstairs. Now, one of the things I always find amusing is that all the seniors gather in the lobby and at 4 o'clock sharp the dinner bell is rung and all are welcome to enter the dining room--but not until that bloody bell has been rung... The lobby was full, but my grandmother slid through the hungry crowd with her walker on wheels and whispered there was a side entrance that most don't use... but it is close to the drinks so we could start there. We sat on benches across from the mini post office. I sat next to a woman who was all teary eyed. She was holding a card and caressing the envelope to her breast. She was smiling and her lips were trembling... She looked at me and my grandfather and my grandfather said, "So you gotta Mother's Day card, huh?" She nodded and opened the card and there was just a signature. No note, just a "Happy Mother's Day, Love, so and so....." She was so very happy. She was the kind of happy you are as a kid on Christmas morning when you realize Santa brought you exactly what you wanted. That card she held in her hand was exactly what she wanted, what she needed. As I looked into this woman's eyes I realized how obtuse I can be. I had told Michael how I was dreading this dinner because of the drama behind the scenes that I will not divulge in this forum... It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day blah blah blah of living, when what really matters is family and reaching out. Sometimes just sending a card or making a quick phone call or simply showing up on their doorstep is what is needed and wanted. Elaborate flowers are lovely, but what people seek is human contact.

So anyway, there is a mad dash (remember this is seniors w/ walkers and cains and electric carts) to get to your table. Now because this was a special occasion, the place was hoppin'... err uh... moving at a faster than normal pace... We made our way to the table and then hopped in line for the buffet... good food... The folks that run and work at this home truly care about their residents. Because this was a special occasion... beer and wine was set up on the far end. I'm not a beer drinker or a fan of Zinfandel, but my grandmother had a Budweiser and we cheered her on to chug chug chug.... Sorry... no, we didn't... that would be funny, though... wouldn't it?

There was a DJ playing old country... Waylon and Willie, Buck Owens, Loretta Lynn, Glen Campbell, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Ray Price... the good stuff...

As we sat and ate and chatted, I looked around the dining room. So many faces... it occurred to me.... that they were all young once... I was 30 before I realized that my grandparents were old. For me it was an instant realization- Something they could do my entire life was now a challenge for them. It's quite a shocker when it happens. It's just been within the past couple of year's that I realized my mom was getting old... It's not an awful thing to get old... Our culture makes it an awful thing though... Plastic surgery and constantly looking for the fountain of youth.... skin cremes and botox and celebrity worship.... Please someone tell Joan Rivers, Dolly Parton and Priscilla Presley that they look horrible... They all either look like the joker or they have the trout pout...

The people that I sat next to in this dining room all had dreams and goals... Many folks in the room are quite accomplished... doctors, attorneys, teachers, world travelers, farmers, ministers, buyers, salesmen, politicians (ok... some are accomplished). I realized despite my obtuseness that I was surrounded by "The Greatest Generation". These folks lived through the Great Depression and WWII. They learned to make due with what they had, which was very little or they lived with out. They grew Victory Gardens and learned to ration. They fought enemies on two fronts. And after the war was over... they went on with their lives and no one said, "You owe me!" I have a friend- his father came to this country from Italy- he joined the army because it would expedite him becoming a citizen. He fought for 4 years... not once did he come home... Tony said he doesn't remember his father ever complaining... 4 years away from home!! "...a small price to pay to become a citizen of the United States...." Let that one soak in for a minute....

I imagine all had families... many of the children and grandchildren were there... Did these people expect to spend their twilight years surrounded by other old people?

My administrative assistant at my previous company by all rights should have been retired, but she would always say... "This job keeps me young and being around young people keeps me younger. I don't want to hear friends my age blabbing on and on about their ailments and prescriptions." Betty is right... when I looked around the room... the folks that had family with them were animated and eyes were twinkling. If the table was full of seniors... vacant stares and silence...

So the lesson I must take away from this... Call, visit, and listen... even if you have heard the story a thousand times. There will be a day when I wished I had paid a little more attention to the story about the pileated woodpecker or the time they took a vacation at the Jersey shore....

The 2 photos of Robin & Gracie and Robin were taken by me.
The photo of Helyn and Ted was taken by my Aunt Jayne 66 years ago.

The remaining photos were photographs I found on the internet. If the photo belongs to you, I would like to give proper credit or will promptly remove it if you prefer.

Update 8:30am EST: Here are some heartfelt posts from some of my favorite blogs...

Last Girl on Earth
Important Stuff or Not
Mommy Needs Coffee
One Marine's View
Merri Musings

Blogs and Links to Check Out This Week:

A Marine's Journey
BearWaller Hollar
Reformed Chicks Blabbing
Alabama Improper

Happy Mother's Day!

Have a great week, everyone!


Mark said...

Nice post!

Merri said...

Cathy - thanks for a great post and for the link over to my site. Isn't it amazing how much we can learn from our grandparents and those of that generation...they don't teach us math or geography, but they give us lessons about life without any effort at all.

Thanks again and take care!