Friday, May 18, 2012

Flashback Fridays: Days with Grama

Flashback Fridays is a weekly meme here at Lost and Found. The idea is to talk about something from your past - a childhood memory, a favorite vacation, favorite music or movies or TV shows from the past, a special memory from high school or your days as a young adult, a big event in your life (grad, wedding, becoming a parent, going back to school, new job), games you used to play, childhood friends - anything at all. Every week, I'll post a Linky so you can link up your Flashback Friday post and we can hop around to visit each other and enjoy the reminiscing.

My Grama was always one of my best friends. We used to say we were ‘kindred spirits’ - we had this amazing, special connection.

I’m the baby in my family. My parents had me later in life, so my brother and two cousins are much older than I am. Because of that, they got to know Grama in ways I didn’t - they got to have sleepovers at her house, and have her cook meals for them, and bake them treats. They got to see her active, and have her play with them on the floor and run around with them and take them places. There have been times over the years when I felt almost cheated because I missed out on all of that, but then I realized just like they got a side of Grama that I never got, I got a side of her none of them got. Now I see I got the best parts of her. 

Me with Grama and Poppy
Up until the time I was 12, we lived in the country in a house that had actually belonged to my Grama and Poppy before my Poppy had a stroke and they had to move because they couldn’t handle a house. They moved to an apartment, then a retirement home, and then a retirement home/nursing home combo - Grama lived in the retirement part, Poppy lived in the nursing home part because he required more care.

After my dad died and we had to sell our house (a story for another day), my mum and I moved into the city, farther away from Grama and Poppy. We still visited them every weekend, but it wasn’t as easy to just pop over for a visit. There was a girl who worked at the retirement home who was very fond of Grama and who lived fairly close to me. The summer we moved, she used to take me with her a couple times a week to spend the day with Grama. We would do group exercises first thing in the morning, and then spend the rest of the morning in her room talking. We talked about anything and everything - books, history, school, friends, boys, family, you name it. Whatever my little 12-year-old mind came up with, she would listen and encourage me. She even indulged me when I told her I secretly believed unicorns were real.

Before lunch, I would go downstairs to the dining room with the girl who worked there and help her set the tables. It might sound weird, but it was a lot of fun. When I was finished with that, I would load up a trolley with dishes and cutlery for two, our lunch, and then take it upstairs where Grama and I would eat in the fancy ‘family dining room’, just the two of us. I loved that. I would get to serve her, pour our drinks, get her whatever she needed, and feel like an adult. Once in awhile, they had special meals like KFC, and we would eat downstairs in the main dining room with everyone else. In the afternoons, Grama would sometimes have a short nap, then we would visit some more, go downstairs to see Poppy, and then we’d do whatever activities had been planned - Bingo, musical entertainment, Dominos, card games, etc. It was so much fun, and all the little old ladies made a big fuss over me.

We also had a family friend who lived near our old house, and she had me over to her place fairly regularly that summer. She brought Grama over sometimes when I was there so we could all spend time together. This family friend taught me to play the piano, and I remember giving a 'recital' for her, my mum, and Grama. I still have the program I made in my Memory Box. I keep everything.

We were all heartbroken when Grama had to leave the retirement home and move to a nursing home. Poppy had passed away by then, and where Grama lived was up to fate - she had her name on a waiting list, and had no control over where she ended up. Luckily, she ended up in a nursing home just five minutes away from Mum and me, so we got to visit her more often.

Grama and I were always close, but in the year before her death, we became even closer. There was a short period where I didn’t visit her as often as I would have liked, or as I should have because I was so busy, but in the year before she died, I visited her as often as I could. I was always interested in our family history, and I made sure to ask her plenty of questions and write things down. I remember her telling me when I was a little girl that she wished she had asked her grandmother more questions, and I was determined not to have those regrets myself.

She and I had so much fun. She was my biggest supporter and cheerleader. Every week she wanted to know how my writing was coming, what I’d been doing, where I’d been, and hear stories about the boys (my nephews). She was fascinated with technology, even though she didn’t understand most of it. The November before she died, I went to all the events I’d never gone to before at the nursing home - the birthday tea, the bazaar - and I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t thank my lucky stars that I did that, because they were the last she’d have. We had a huge 99th birthday party for her that month, and I made sure I was never more than a few feet away from her in case she needed anything. She would visually seek me out once in awhile and give me one of her beautiful, heart-melting smiles. She always made me feel so needed and loved. 

When she got sick and went into the hospital, my mum and I spent quite a bit of time with her in the hospital. Even though she was sick, I have great memories from those nights. She was in good spirits, talking and joking, asking me questions and telling me things. Usually when she was really sick (there were a few times over the years when we thought we would lose her), she became really disoriented, but not this time. She was so strong, we all thought she was going to pull through - she was only three months away from her 100th birthday - but her body had other ideas, and it just couldn’t handle all that was wrong with it.

Life hasn’t been the same since Grama died. It’s been nine months, and I still feel lost a lot of the time. So much of my life centred around her. On a daily basis, I still find myself thinking ‘I have to tell Grama that’ or ‘Grama will think that’s funny’ or ‘I’ll have to take that to show Grama’. There are just some things you never get over, and I think her death will be one of those things for me. I didn’t just lose a grandparent, I lost a friend, a part of my heart and soul.

BUT…I have amazing memories of her. 27 years of wonderful, heartwarming, laugh-out-loud memories of things she said, places we went, conversations we had, loving looks she gave me. I have no regrets when it comes to her, and for that, I feel truly blessed. 

What were your grandparents like? Were you close to them?
If you did a Flashback Friday post this week, be sure to link up below! Happy Friday!

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