Tuesday, April 27, 2010
My grandparents last Christmas with 9 of their 13 great-grandchildren.
I am very fortunate that at 41 years old, all 4 of my grandparents are living. In fact, CB is soon to be 15 and she has 6 great-grandparents still in her life. I wish she realized this because it is surely an anomaly of the most fortunate kind.
All of my grandparents are in their 90s. My oldest is 96 and he is not in good health, physically or cognitively. He really started to decline about 2 years ago, but up until then he was pretty "with it" and living with my grandmother in their very ritzy assisted living apartment. For about 2 years he has been battling some dementia, many physical ailments and is full time in the hospital wing of the nursing home. It is depressing. I hate to visit him there. He doesn't look or act the same. I'm relatively sure he's confused as to who I am, and I'm quite positive he has no recollection of my children.
Did I mention I hate seeing him there? He's not really my grandfather anymore and I don't like the shell that stares back at me. I'm a horrible person, I know.
My grandmother, however, is falling apart physically but still managing just fine in her assisted living apartment. Depressed, visually impaired, and recovering from hip surgery, her mind is sharp as a tack, as is her wit and conversation. I love her. Spending time with her is a gift.
My grandmother is really cool and always there for me. When we talk on the phone, my husband will ask me which friend I was talking to because we'll be laughing for an hour and he's shocked to find out it wasn't a peer, but my 91 year old grandma. She never says goodbye when she gets off the phone. At most she'll say "Right-O" and then you hear the dial tone.
Oh, were we finished?...'kay... um... bye to you too...
So, we spent Sunday with her. All 6 of us. We try to visit about every month which isn't nearly enough but it's difficult as she resides in another state and life gets busy for us while her days blend together sitting alone.
Like most Grandmas, she's a quirky one. I'm not sure if it was pre-morbid quirkiness or a factor of old age.
Upon arriving we must go directly to the old folks dining hall because all she has in her fridge are the blueberries she requested I bring, diet pepsi and a few condiments. The food in the dining room is bordering on unpalatable. Think diabetics with dentures, a myriad of medical issues, and hyper-sensitive to all seasonings. And I say this knowing full well that I will be one of them in about 30-40 years, so I'm really just making fun of my future self. In a further twist of bizarreness, all men must wear a tie in the 'formal dining room' which seems a bit dressy for the what is being passed off as cuisine. But it's nice.
So, after corralling our brood of 6 we order our brunch. I need to read the entire menu to my Grandmother twice due to her vision problems and listen to her grumble for about 7 minutes about why there isn't chipped beef and gravy because they have it every Sunday. Ironically, I'm bummed right there with her because disgustingly enough, chipped beef and gravy is CB's favorite meal which she is all but deprived of since I cannot stand the smell of it.
We all get the Omelet Station buffet because it seems the lesser of the evils. My grandmother gets pancakes, eggs and sausage.
The food arrives.
Grandma: "Who wants a pancake. I can't eat all these pancakes. They always give so much food here. I can't eat it all. Who wants one of my pancakes?"
She puts an overemphasis on the PAN in pancake because she has always had an odd inflexion pattern when speaking. I think it's a rural Pennsylvanian thing.
Me: No thanks, Grandma. Girls?
They all answer no thank you.
Me: We made pancakes for breakfast this morning.
Grandma: Well there are just too many pancakes here. Are you sure no one wants a pancake? Pink... do you want a pancake? Tink, do you want a pancake? Rella? Do you think CB wants my pancake?I really don't think I can EAT both of these pancakes!
Well I'll just put this pancake right here on this plate because I can't eat this much food. They always give you too much food here. I can never finish it!
There isn't even enough food on that plate to satisfy my left buttock.
Lots of fumbling to get the pancake on her plate.
Me: Gram, do you need help?
Grandma: No no, I've got the pancake.
If I hear the word pancake one more time...
When you hit your 80th birthday, is it a senior citizen requirement to repeat one word over and over? Some secret code for something?
My husband returns from the buffet.
Grandma: Dr. Fabulous (name changed to protect the innocent) would YOU like this pancake? I can't eat all these pancakes.
We're seriously never going to stop talking about this pancake are we? I'm tempted to just reach over and shove it in my mouth to end the conversation, but I'm all pancaked out from breakfast... and I'm rather curious at how long this conversation is going to last before it fizzles...
Husband: No, that's okay Gram.
Grandma: Well I can't eat this pancake if you'd like it, it's right here.
I feel like I'm on Pee Wees Playhouse and the secret word of the day is "Pancake" only I can't scream every time she says it.
Though I want to.
Kids converse for a few minutes as we cut up their food.
I think it's over.
Grandma: Well they didn't give me syrup for this pancake. Oh Miss (calling to nearby wait staff). I didn't get any syrup for this pancake. This pancake... there's no syrup for it. I can't eat my pancake without syrup.
I'm stifling laughter. I might just pee myself.
The waitress returns.
Grandma: Ah! Now I can eat my pancake.
Thank Goodness the pancake debacle has come to its conclusion.
Grandma: Does anyone want one of my sausages?