I'm sorry if I'm not thrilled with the successes of science and medicine. Maybe we don't have small pox and polio anymore, but we've created several in place like fibromyalgia, Lupus, Cushing's Disease, ADHD, and Alzheimer's. And don't get me started on cancers.
My grandmother had Alzheimer's. She avoided diabetes and cancer, but could not escape Alzheimer's. I know how it feels to lose your mind, your ability to remember and deal with day-to-day activities. I felt completely hopeless when I had my breakdown and I can't imagine the feeling my grandmother might have had. If she didn't remember what was happening to her, it was a good thing. The rest of us have to use a mental filter to focus on the good things and understand we did the best we could, too. I will strive to always remember what I've learned from my grandmother.
It's a different relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild. You don't see them as the authority figures like your parents, but you respect them nonetheless. Their wise patience can be so calming. But every once in a while, you might catch a glimpse of that trouble maker s/he used to be or perhaps still is. That's when you realize s/he is completely human with more layers than an onion. My grandmother's daughters know more about their mother than I know about her. My grandmother's siblings know even more about her. My grandmother passed away at age 94. What have I learned about my grandmother in my measly 42 years?
Humor is good. Family is important. History should be respected. Oh, and do label all those extra keys to the house.
Years ago, my grandmother started cutting up words and phrases from the newspapers. It was sort of like scrap-booking before there was the scrap-booking boom. You'd find a few vulgar words in the proper places of the bathroom. The "Oh, shit!" taped to the top of the toilet paper holder. Mom always talked about Grandma's dirty mouth. Well, there it was. On the door, in big letters that are hard to miss, it read, "Shit Happens." Yes, it does, Grandma. It does. If Grandma had a car, guess what her bumper sticker would say?
But that's not all. There's evidence everywhere. Small clippings of words taped to pictures on the fridge. As far back as I can remember the extra keys for locks around the house and garage had hand-written labels taped to them. You'd never have to stop and wonder 'now which key was for the back door?' My name was taped to medicine bottles filled with change for a while. I washed many loads with those. Grandma had some good reusing skills way before there was a fuss about recycling. Being poor or raised poor can make you look at your possessions a little differently. Not a bad habit to cultivate in any event.
I remember as a child, seeing the contents of her huge cedar chest. I was so awed by these ancient items. She had jewelry and some clippings about JFK and the first man on the moon. Ok, maybe they aren't exactly ancient, but they were treasures to me. Ha! Grandma was a pirate, with her bad mouth and chest full of treasures! Seriously, though, this was a fond memory that helped me appreciate history. When she'd open up her chest, and let me look and feel and smell the past, it was beautiful. I loved it. What girl doesn't like looking at jewelry? And I felt loved that she shared these things with me, even if I didn't keep them. I hope I can do that for my kids, my grandkids, and hopefully great-grand-kids, too. I do have a collection of sorts.
The back of her bathroom door that she used as kind of a scrapbook, brought out some of her personality. She could never tell me her whole life story. Too many stories. But in her bathroom, her 'map' showed some of the things that she treasured or found humorous. What was my grandmother like? Here are some of the clippings:
"Love Me For Who I Am"
"Give and Receive"
"Too Much Coffee Man"
"Latino, Hispanic, Chicano. These words can evoke a deeper meaning than a label on a census form."
"Where do I go from here with my life"
"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, I'm great."
"I love you, you're perfect, now change."
"Happy trails and adios."
"Ok. Maybe we do need" "Fina"
"Do I live to work or work to live? Depends on the day."
"Together, we can help."
"Remember our veterans."
"Para que hagas lo que quieras."
"Se busca. Mama divertida y carinosa que quiera con alma."
"Just watch me go" "sola."
One of Grandma's memories was working in a cotton field as a child. Apparently, she hid because she didn't want to work. However old she was, she was right. She was a child; she was suppose to be playing or even going to school. Can you imagine all the historical changes that took place since 1919? She was there. World Wars, segregation, the first man on the moon. She saw Martin Luther King give his most memorable speech, Princess Di's wedding and her funeral, and September 11. I respect my elders because I know they've walked a long way, been through much, and still carry us through today in the many ways they share their humor and history.
One of the most important things my grandmother taught me was family is important. They are priority. When a family member needs something, give it. When they need you, be there. If not you, then who? I see so many people today suffer for one reason or another because family isn't there for support. Excuses or grudges, it doesn't matter. Always be there for family. Take care of your family. Respect your family. Love your family. It takes a brave person and a wise one to rise above any conflict of time or emotion and be there for someone else who shares the same blood or name or roots as you. I remember my grandmother telling me to help my brother out and have him help me, too. We have to stick together; we're family. No one else is 'family'. That's not to shut everyone else out, but to keep that family bond strong. Through any troubles, whether physical, emotional, financial, you should be able to trust that family will be there. My family has been there for me through everything. Whether they agreed with or understood everything I did, they were still there. That earns my respect for them and I will in turn be there for them to the best of my ability. Trust and dependability. Not bad qualities to cultivate in any event.
Grandma has truly shared some of her best treasures with me. I hope I can remember and pass on the many life-lessons I've learned from her. "It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them." ~ Paulo Coelho