Its been just over a year since grandma moved in, and what a year it has been.
I vividly remember that first night. My mom and I stood awkwardly in the doorway to her room as she got into bed, because none of us were quite sure what to do. What kind of dynamic were we going to have? What was this going to be like? Of course back then she could still dress herself and get in bed on her own. Now its another story.
In the months prior to my grandma moving in I honestly didn’t think much about what it was going to be like or what kind if care I was going to have to provide her. I don’t think I was being naive or unrealistic about the challenges, instead I felt like focusing on them was pointless. It was going to be a challenge. I was going to have to adapt and learn to care for her, that was just how it was. There was no turning back, this was what she needed, so it was what I was going to do.
The first time I saw her very elderly feet I was a bit horrified. The first time I had to help her dress I was uncomfortable. The first time I had to help her in the bathroom I was so relieved when my mom came home. But I got used to everything. I know the little song that helps encourage her to wash her hands. The tricks to getting her dressed. Yesterday grandma told me, “you only EVER take me to the bathroom!” (Sometimes it seems like that to me too). Certain things work and then her memory declines again and I have to adapt again.
I also remember the first time I held her hand. I am not a hand holder. I don’t think I ever held her hand before she moved in with me. I was surprised by how strong her grip was. I was surprised how by how much she liked holding my hand, and by how much I liked holding hers. (As I was writing this I had to run and hold her hand because someone was being bad to Mr. Monk on TV.) She smiles when I take off her socks and help her into bed and then I find myself smiling as I rub her head as she falls asleep.
In the past year I have learned a lot about how to physically provide care for another person, but far more than that I have learned how to truly care for and love someone who has no ability to care for herself. There is nothing casual about this kind of love. Its powerful and permanent. Stronger than anything else I have experienced.
As a friend of mine once told me, I am lucky to get to take her socks off. I am lucky to have her as one of my teachers in learning what it means to be selfless and what it means to love. It is a lesson I desperately needed at this point in my life (and probably everyone needs at least once). Its the greatest thing she could have ever taught me.