This past year my grandmother, who is about to turn 90 years old, was moved to Florida to be closer to my parents. She truly is in great shape healthwise and doing very well, even after surgery to her brain! She recovered even better than expected, but cries each day that she is never going to be back to how she was before. I keep telling her that she will with time, and that each day she gets better. It just takes awhile.
She chose the amazing living center she gets to live in that offers a variety of fun activities (Wii bowling, dances, bingo, a workout area, church services, dinners, shopping, etc.) and right on the beach. This past month all my family flew there to spend time with her and each other for the first time in a long, long time. My daughter first got to visit with her when she was in kindergarten when my grandpa passed away. It definitely was not the best situation, but it was something special watching my own child and my grandmother interact.
This time was different in many ways, but just as special. I recently read an article on Facebook that has been going around about a note left from an elderly woman when she passed away that said, See Me. This really hit me hard because as I sat with my grandmother this week, I did see her. I saw the grandmother I always have known – strong as ever physically and mentally, but I noticed that emotionally she was shutting down.
Sure, she told me the same stories and worries over and over within a few minutes, but that’s expected as we age. I sat and listened each day over and over when she told me she is ready to go because she is only existing and not truly living. After a few days of hearing this when she said to me in tears, “Bridget, I know you don’t want to hear this but why doesn’t the good Lord just take me? I’m not living.” I felt compelled to say something.
I said, “But you could be, grandma. You are healthy. You have many people here who care about you and check on you. You have friends and family. You just have to do it. Yes, it’s change and it is very hard for you to accept this life change, but you can do it.” She shook her head and agreed with me. But in all honesty, I really don’t blame her. I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it is for such an active woman to move across the country from the home she was born in 90 years ago to a place that is not “home” and now has restrictions medically.
This situation accompanied with my daughter asking me why grandma is just sitting there when we arrive and not watching tv or anything (which totally baffles this constantly moving active child!) had me think about change in general.
First of all, I had to explain to my daughter that “back in the day” people did not have things constantly at their fingertips. They could just sit there and relax in the stillness. We also sat by an elderly gentleman on the flight out there who just sat there. GASP! She was so concerned about him as to why he didn’t read anything or watch a movie or listen to something. Oh sweet child…. I was not preaching because I am not one that can do this. Yet!
I am one of the few weird ones that likes change. When it is big change, it might make my stomach have butterflies for a little bit but then I press on. I appreciate flexibility and thrive in changing situations, just about as much as I thrive on a schedule! It’s strange. But I know not everyone likes change. I realized that after many years of being independent and being able to do many things, this shift in having to rely on someone else is not going to be something my grandma ever adjusts to. And that is okay. I have heard it said that as long as we are moving forward, we are growing. Like the picture above says, it doesn’t matter how fast we go or how far we go…..as long as we just go. This is what I keep telling her every time we talk. “I understand it’s hard. You are doing so well with this change. Go to dinner with your friend. Try Wii bowling on Tuesdays.” (Let me tell you how fun it was explaining what Wii was AND how to say it!!)
Change is hard. As easy as it is for some to adjust to, it is not easy for most. As long as we are moving forward, we are growing. In life as we age. In life as we live each day parenting, teaching, coaching. All that really matters is that we are taking baby steps forward because if we refuse to do that then this is when our growth stops.
I truly believe this! I treasured my time with my grandmother talking, just being there to listen to her stories or be a shoulder to cry on. I attended a church service with her and all the other elderly in her living center while I was there. I see how much just moving forward and doing something affects your brain and positive outlook. This applies to all human beings of all ages.