For the Love of Life

My sweet Gram is 90 years old and only 72 pounds, but may be the toughest lady I know. She had a heart attack almost 3 weeks ago in the middle of the night. She lives in our basement apartment and when it happened, she called my cell but since I don't keep it with me at night, I didn't answer. She was in such pain and needed me, so she tried to walk up the stairs but couldn't make it. She made it back down and instead of calling our home number, she says she sat in her chair and waited because she just knew this was going to be the end. Eventually, after three to four hours, the pain subsided and she made it back to bed. I woke at six the next morning and saw that she had called so I rushed down because I knew that meant something was wrong. She would never call in the middle of the night otherwise. She was still in pain, confused, and exhausted. I called my mom right away and she made plans to fly in from Oklahoma that afternoon. My Uncle the next day. We were worried. The kids were scared. And I was so heartbroken that my Gram needed me, and I wasn't with her.

By Sunday afternoon she had rested, showered and had the energy to eat so she was feeling better, but she did not care for "all the hoopla" as she called it, with family rushing in to see her. She agreed to go to the hospital Monday morning to confirm what had happened so we could all quit fussing over her. After some initial testing, they admitted her for further testing and observation overnight. She was not thrilled, but cooperated. Like I said, a tough cookie. Whatever happened on Friday was over in her mind, she felt fine and wanted to come home, but knew we wanted more details so she appeased us. She came home Tuesday afternoon ready to get on with things and put this behind her.

Thursday, my mom and uncle flew home. Gram was settled back home, rested from her less than desirable hospital stay, armed with her new medicine routine and ready to get back to normal.

This is where my heart stumbles a bit.

I hear people speak of life in terms of 'season's'. New borns, the toddler years, the teenage years, college years, the 40's...you get the idea. This season of life my Gram has just entered, while her days certainly are not numbered, is the final season. It makes me so sad to even admit it, but as she has always done and always taught me to do, you have to accept where you are and move on. There's no sense pining over the past, or worrying about the future, just live with what you are given each day to the very best of your potential, without complaint and regret, taking full advantage of the love that surrounds you.

So, with that mindset, I have watched my Gram a little closer the last few days and made a few observations.

When she eats, she is slow and deliberate. This is partly because she has to be for her digestion, but it's also because she enjoys each bite. She savors, and chews slowly. She contemplates her next bite, making sure to have the combination of flavors that suits her in each forkful. It's mindful eating and it points out, glaringly, that I eat like a ravished teen late for school at almost every meal. I've convinced myself I must eat that way to get a meal between the requests for seconds, squeals of disgust, cleaning spilled milk, or fending off the sword/fork fights that comes with having dinner with four littles...all the things I've allowed to take away from peaceful eating. But, like my Gram does, I'm attempting to slow the madness down. To enjoy what's before me, each time, considering it a blessing, each time.

When she hugs the kids she wraps them up, looks them in the eye and does not rush them, or look to the next moment. She just hugs them. And the beauty is, they hug her back. Don't get me wrong, I get plenty of wonderful hugs from my kids, but I also get, and give, the occasional drive by hug. The ones where, not only is there no eye contact, but there's barely a gentle touch before one or both of us has moved on without giving the other the much needed moment of attention we craved. Watching her hug them, and remembering how she hugged me when I was little, makes me regret these lost moments of affection with my kids, and reminds me to sit down and hold them when they want, or need it, and sometimes just because.

When she holds my hand to tell me goodnight she is never rushed. I realize this is partly due to that season of life thing I mentioned before.....she's in a calm and significantly slower season then I am. I rarely have a moment that I'm not rushing to get to the next, but when she holds my hand gently in her frail hand, patting it lovingly with her other tiny frail hand telling to have a good sleep and reminding me that its ok for me to relax, I'm suddenly young again and she's telling me I played a good game even though we lost and I shouldn't be so hard on myself. Her hands weren't so frail back then, but they've always had that calm, assuring feeling behind them. I've looked at her hands more closely the last few days....there's wisdom and love and patience and kindness in those hands. They've held me and rocked me to sleep. They've protected me crossing streets and comforted me when I was sad. Those amazing hands have cradled each of my babies and showed them love they otherwise would never have known.

When she sees something lovely she really stops to enjoy it. A flower, a rain shower, the kids chasing a frog around the yard...things that bring her joy she stops to take them in. It's not a fleeting glance and she doesn't run for her phone to take a picture. She just takes it in, being rushed by nothing. The night before my mom and uncle left town after her heart attack we continued our visit in the garage after the kids went to bed as the sun went down for the evening. When I looked out and saw how beautiful it was I decided Gram needed to see it. It took her longer to get up from her chair, get her cane, get turned around and out of the garage, then it did for us to take in the beauty. But it was worth it. She looked from one end of the pink sky to the other, nodding in approval, remarking on the depth of the colors, holding my hand and smiling, then we turned back to the chairs and Scott handed me my phone. He had taken a picture of us....moments like this are when a picture becomes a treasure. My Gram has taken care of me my whole life. I am so lucky to get to care for her now and share this 'season' with her and continue to learn life lessons with her. Right now I'm learning that it seems the less time we have, the more time we take, and maybe that's not such a bad thing.