The card stores and blogosphere always seem to make a huge deal of the littlest “holidays”….and yes, those quotation marks do represent sarcasm. I am sorry, I love holidays just as much as the next guy and I try to get into the spirit, but celebrations touting National S’mores Day just don’t do it for me. Yes, I love S’Mores, but as far as I’m concerned, in order for something to rate high enough to get its own day, it had better be very special. So on most days, I scroll through the proclamations dismissing them as product promotions or card store gimmicks and move on. Except today.
Today is apparently National Grandparents Day and it immediately makes me think of my mom. My mom is in a nursing home, suffering the effects of Parkinson’s disease…and I am sad. I have written about my mom before, alluding to her illness as I share her recipes and some of the great advice I have received from her over the years, but what I haven’t shared is what a great grandmother she was to my children for many, many years.
My mom was almost forty when I was born and nearly seventy when my first child entered this world. She worked fulltime, had a very active social life and was an avid traveler, yet she was basically the one and only babysitter my kids ever had until they were at least four or five. In essence, she was their second mother. She was their emergency contact at school, she knew how everyone liked their noodles and grilled cheese prepared. She was here every Christmas Eve carrying the biggest presents, making cookies and left work early for every school play. She was a constant fixture in our lives and then one day about two years ago, everything changed.
The diagnosis was painfully slow. There were falls, breaks, hospital stays and emergencies. There were moves, out of her home, into a siblings’, to assisted living and finally when her care became too much and it became clear that she needed a medical facility, to the dreaded nursing home ~ a place we had joked about at many family dinners that she would never have to go. I thought for sure that when the day came that my mom could no longer live alone, I would be an empty nester with an extra bedroom and my mom could drink her coffee and read her paper and grow gracefully old, in my home. I guess God had other plans.
While I am sad for my mother and all that she has lost and sad for myself and my siblings as the struggling caregivers we have become, today, I am sad for my children. They are teens now and their strongest memories of my mother and their interactions with her are obviously the most recent ones. The awful ones, including the melancholy visits where she cannot speak or she weeps. They do not remember the vacations we took together, the weekly family dinners, the shopping trips and sleepovers as well. I try to remind them, but it is not the same.
I have vowed to find the beauty in every day and today, in honor of Grandparents Day, a holiday I have never recognized before, I will try to remember some of the wonderful moments we have shared with my mom and remind my kids of them at dinner. We will wish my mom a Happy "G" Day and be thankful that she is still here with us, that even though she has been robbed of the power of speech, she can still understand our words, laugh and show off her brilliant smile. I will try to reframe my perspective and choose to see that while our surroundings and the dynamics of care may have changed, she is still the same grandma on the inside and can still love my kids and make some sweet new memories with them every time we are together. Whether our visits are filled with laughter or tears I will focus on the subtle moments of grace...and hey, who knows, if I feel like baking, we may even bring her some S’mores.