Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Circle of Life

We spend the majority of our time and space on this blog discussing the inception of life-- the baby days, preschool days etc.-- however, this Christmas we are near my 92-year-old grandmother, which has provided me the opportunity to think about life at the other end of the spectrum.

My parents are hosting my three young children and I at their home in San Diego while our Daddy is deployed this holiday season. They live in a cottagey home that is located several blocks away from the Assisted Living Facility in which my grandmother lives. The decision as to whether or not my grandmother needed to be moved into a near-nursing-home-type-thing was an emotional one in the family, but that is not of immediate relevance to this post. I feel that my job, in this less than ideal situation of a woman with failing mental and physical faculties, is to foster as much of a relationship as I can between her and the three great grandchildren that I have brought to town.

So far we have been here for three days, and have visited her twice. My goal was to go every day, but inclement weather sometimes makes it more difficult. We traipse into her small room every afternoon not knowing what to expect. I am filled with complicated adult emotions about whether GeeGee will call my children by the right names or have her blouse buttoned in order to avoid embarrassment. But let me tell you what I learned very quickly - my three children have none of this on their mind. They are thrilled to visit her. Eldest Daughter enjoys the opportunity to write GeeGee notes on her whiteboard, since she has been deaf for the last decade. Middle 2-year-old Boy loves to show off his light-up sneakers and even operate GeeGee's electric chair if no one is paying attention. New Little Guy is happy to be rescued from his plastic bucket and placed into warm, adoring arms, even if we aren't sure she knows who the baby is or from whence he came to be placed in her arms. My three kids explode onto the scene in those hallways full of wheelchairs and walkers, and the eyes glow.

I have spent a great deal of time philosophizing on the meaning of life at its end. We, as Catholics, are committed to defending life from conception until natural death - but things get muddled at either end. Babies are easier to defend and go "ga-ga" over than a woman who cannot control her bodily functions and spends her days going in and out of sleep in front of a television. Nonetheless, my children have, once again, taught me to see with the eyes of a child. This is a soul who prays for all of us. She spends several hours each morning in prayer - and if those prayers are muddled on their way up to Heaven, God sorts them out before they even arrive. Beyond her spiritual life, her remaining time on Earth is teaching my children the value of human connection. Her intrinsic value is obvious to all three of them and they relish the gleam they inspire in her eyes by their mere presence.

I pray that your Christmas Season will be blessed with the love of an old earthly soul and that your children will have the opportunity to bestow the same love on an elderly member of your family - even if it has to be by mail or telephone.


Erika said...

Beautiful. Thank you.
Als, I hope your deployment is short, and I'll praying for you. I know from experience how hard it is!

Right Said Red said...

I loved this post AWOL. My grandparents have all passed on, and it makes me so sad that my children never really knew them. My oldest grandfather was with us for about the first 13 months of Gianna's (my oldest) life. He lit up every time he saw her. God Bless you for taking the time to bring your kiddos to visit great grandma!

MargaretJDMom said...

So beautiful! My grandmother is suffering from dementia but she absolutely loves the photos we send her- she shows them off to people even if she can't remember who they are, she knows enought that they somehow "belong" to her! And the visits from far flung great grandchildren just delight her to no end! In many ways, she is like a child too! Sometimes people write the elderly off (even their own family) because they think they are too out of it...what a mistake!

Prayers for you as you endure a deployment with a newborn! At least he made it for the birth right?

Karen said...

What a lovely post, and a good reminder.

B-Mama said...

AWOL, I just love these sentiments. My children have delighted (all of us) with their jubilance toward great grandparents. And how much sparkle and joy they receive in return. It's almost as if the young and the old are linked in their simplicity of life so as to have a greater understanding and appreciation for one another. Whatever it is, it warms my heart to know that Great Grandpa Frank out in CA is at the tops of my 4yo's must-visit list. Adorable!

Juris Mater said...

AWOL, this is absolutely beautifully written and clearly inspired. I think from time to time about how little precious time we have left with the older loved ones in our lives. 20 years from now the window of time that my children had to be with them will seem like the blink of an eye. What a perfectly lovely thought, AWOL and B-mama, that the oldest and youngest ones in our lives are linked in a special way, through their dependence and simplicity. I'm going to really reflect on this this coming week. Thank you again, AWOL.

catherine said...

Thank you, AWOL. This is a wonderful post.

Kate E. said...

What a lovely post. The only living great-grandparent in our family is my husband's step-mom's mom. We treasure having her. She is still sharp as a tack although physically not in great shape. We just took the new baby to see her and it clearly brought her such joy. The baby screamed while being held (she was woken up from her nap) and I said to my husband...grammy didn't seem to mind the baby screaming she just smiled and smiled...and he noted that it helps when you can turn your hearing aid off!

Jack also loves her facility and all the other folks there light up when they get to see the kids too. Enjoy the time this week.

Elizabeth M said...

My children loved knowing their "Gram" until her death 3 years ago. At the time, they were 5 and 8 and we visited her in her nursing home several times during her last months. She loved all of her great-grandchildren and we have wonderful pictures of her smiling at them -- from infancy up.
I knew her mother (MY "Gram") until I was about 11 as well. In fact, I have some memories of my paternal great-grandfather as well.
It is a blessing when you can have 4 generations alive together. Some of my children's classmates don't even have living grandparents, or at least not 4 of them.
Treasure this time, for yourself and your children. I had some wonderful conversations with my grandmother during her last illness. It gave us some one-on-one quiet time.

texas mommy said...

Loved this post, AWOL