Relocating to Ohio and finding myself only 2.5 hours from my original childhood area has been an enlightening experience.
I’ve spent the past 20 years driving 13 hours to get there maybe (maybe) once a year and trying to cram all grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and their homes into 4-5 days.
Living closer has opened that up infinitely. I’ve already been home more times in the past year than in the last decade. I gain longer sits on the porch. Longer conversations. I’ve even re-familiarized myself to many roads and use the GPS less and less. I get to start looking up old friends because I have more time there. I recall more memories and reflect on them.
My Dad and Dianne recently bought a house in Wellsburg, WV. They have a gorgeous home in Richmond, KY but decided they needed something more permanent while indefinitely caring for my grandparents who’ve had some recent health issues. Now in their eighties and nearly home bound, they are one of the main reasons leading to our Ohio move decision. Time is precious.
My grandmother, Vivian Hall, in many ways has always felt like my “person”. Of course as I age and learn and experience I see pieces of me in all of my family and vice versa, but my Grandma Viv has been someone I strive to emulate. I want my children to know her and have memories like I do.
Their memories may not be as robust and endearing as mine (since she’s been with me my entire life), but I want them to know her and remember her long after even I am gone.
I look at old black and white photos of my great grandparents and I lost them very young. I don’t remember too much, just that they were great people. My Grandma Viv’s mom definitely passed on her sense of humor. I remember her making me giggle a lot – even though I don’t remember what she said. It’s true. The saying: “People won’t remember what you did or what you said, they’ll just remember how you made them feel”. Great-grandma Bain is proof of that.
Now that my Dad has his house in Wellsburg, and I observe him taking care of his parents, I find even more respect and adoration for him. We definitely had a bumpy road through my teens and having so much physical distance between us kept many facts unclear, but I am so thankful that through my adult life that my vision has clarity. Now I wish my daughter were closer and in this area so she could know him like I do, and how her brothers now do. It would make this all more complete.
I see Dad (and step mom Dianne) selflessly put all their needs aside and take care of them and network friends and family to help while they commute between two homes and lives. My Pappy Noil has proven stubborn in his old age and not willing to allow a lot of change. He grew up in the depression and his frugality at times is hard to endure.
I fully agree with them that staying at home is the best possible solution for them, and all seniors. No one should have to give up their home and deserve to always have dignity and independence.
Being closer to this experience of aging has been such a lesson for me, as the cycle will continue in the next decades (although I don’t want it to!)
This battle has been going on for months and I know it has to wear on my Dad. Watching his parents, especially Grandma Viv, go without some independence because Pap says no. Refusing a ramp, a new handicapped bathroom, hearing aids, lift chairs – anything to make them more comfortable – is hard to stomach. Why not? You can’t take the money with you. And her hearing suffers because he cranks everything up so loud because he can’t hear.
But when I sit with them. Talk to them. Listen to Pap’s story telling mastery of days past…I try to understand. I try to empathize and be patient and if anything, be some type of support for my Dad and Dianne to talk to about it.
In addition to trying to soak in every moment and new memory possible and have my children absolutely comfortable around them, is my prayer that Grandma Viv rides into the sunset feeling true love and adoration and comfort.
For a woman that hasn’t had a paying “job” or driven a car, she is one of the hardest working people I know. She is constantly helping others and has a memory of pure detail. She pays attention to each child or grandchild’s likes and dislikes and always has your needs ahead of hers. There aren’t enough positive words to describe her heart.
I’ll never forget years ago, when my cousin’s son Christopher was about five and asked her if one day he could marry her. She represents what love is.
My Grandma is a princess and I want her pampered – especially at the resting and reflecting stage of life she’s entering.
She is loving and compromising. It makes me struggle with resentment for the grandfather I love so much. I try so hard to understand. My Pappy Noil has the same love, a beautiful twinkle in his eye that reaffirms what a wonderful man, father and grandfather he truly is. I pray that twinkle remains and they can both relax, rest and not worry about the price of comfort. Be lovebirds and let us make sure everything is taken care of.
Aging. Ugh. If anything, it provides faith and compassion with the impossibility of ever taking anything for granted.
Love you Grandma and Pappy.