She used to wake up every day at 4 am and exercise. No, not the basic stretches and toe touches. No, Grandma got down on the floor, raised her hips in the air, and pedaled like her life depended on it. At 5am, it was time for bible study and prayer. At 6am, she hit the shower, pressed her clothes and got dressed for work. I was not blessed with the traditional, gray-haired, cookie baking, sit-in-a-rocking-chair-knitting grandmother. No, sir! I was blessed with the scripture reciting, wisdom-sharing, take charge, put-Jane Fonda-to-shame-with-her-work out type of grandmother. I was blessed with a stand tall, shoulders back, chin up, owns the ground she walks on type of grandmother. I was blessed with a fiercely independent grandmother.
My grandmother still tries to stay very active. For a woman of almost 90 years, she is still very mobile and active. She doesn’t get up as early in the morning anymore, and she does not lay on the ground to get exercise anymore. Her body is a little bent and she needs the aid of a walker to get around now. But she still gets down on her knees to pray every morning.
It seems old age has finally caught up with my sharp as a brass tack grandmother. For my grandmother (as well as many other elderly people), the lack of mobility is also a major loss of independence. Few give up on that freedom for the sake of safety and well-being it is very difficult to explain that “can’t” means “not able” or “not recommended” versus “not permitted”. My grandmother is no different. She will take risks, just to prove to us (and herself) that she still “has it” and that she does not need our permission to do something as simple as take care of herself. It’s the hardest thing to get her to understand that is really is the honor of her children and grandchildren to take care of her.
In spite of her determined and independent spirit, my grandmother does not deny the obvious. “Once a woman, twice a baby,” she said with a hint of sadness during a recent visit. Fighting with people for your independence is one thing, but fighting time is futile. So what is a person to do? Well, my grandmother splits her conversation. She drops mention of her wishes for her final arrangements more often during the course of conversation and she also talks about plans for the future. “So, when is the wedding,” she asks me every time I see her. “I want to see when you get married.” I keep trying to explain to her that it is proper protocol for a woman to wait for the proposal, but she ain’t hearin’ it! It seems she has adopted today’s modern woman’s protocol: don’t wait, ask for the ring! (I’ve decided to give the old-fashioned way a try…but I’ll save that story for my memoirs!)
As for me and my family our duty is to come together and make her comfortable so she can enjoy the time she has left. She is a jewel to us. She is the last of her generation and we want to give her our very best until time forces us to say good-bye.