My grandmother - Mamaw - turned 91 on August 28th. She lives in Arizona and it pains me that we don't live closer. She's well cared for by Dad and Mother, so it's not that I'm needed. I just miss her.
I traveled to Arizona on Thursday to visit her for a few days. I usually stay with Mamaw in the assisted living apartment where she lives. It's very nice and comfortable, but she takes so much rest now and is easily confused, I decided to stay at Mom and Dad's this time.
My Papaw died in June of 2007 at the age of 90. He had Alzheimer's and passed relatively peacefully. He and Mamaw had lived apart for a few years due to the care he required. Mamaw visited Papaw faithfully a couple of times a week until he died. Over the past year when I would ask Mamaw if she missed Papaw she would respond honestly, "No. Not really." This visit when I asked her, she seemed to miss him.
Things I want to remember...
Hair and Happy Hour - We went to Mamaw's hair appointment Friday afternoon. She enjoyed having her hair washed and head scratched. With the confidence and mood boost a fresh hairdo gives any girl, we walked to the lobby for a piano concert and Happy Hour. The pianist finished the set with Sentimental Journey, and we all sang God Bless America. Mamaw's neighbor Lou (87) kept trying to kiss her. She turned her head each time and told me he was trouble. Lou told me he wished I was younger so we could "do things together". I told Lou my husband wouldn't like that.
Dinner with Lou - Friday evening we shared a table at dinner with Lou and a new gal, Kaye. Lou struggled to play both ends against the middle with Mamaw and Kaye. He sat between the two ladies and his head went left to right, right to left. Lou told me one of his grandsons had recently been there per instruction from his father. The 25-year old grandson said to Lou, "Dad says you need to go to the bank. After that Dad says I need to take you to get some pants." Lou said he made it to the bank and got his pants, but he thought it was ironic that the grandson was driving his truck. Lou's keys had been confiscated recently - something he didn't protest.
Lipstick and a Nap - When I arrived at Mamaw's on Saturday afternoon with beer [she requested a few beers for her refrigerator even though Lou repeatedly said he had plenty and she could come by anytime] she was asleep on her couch, still in her nightgown and robe. She remembered some of our day together Friday, but needed help to find the memory. I encouraged her to get ready for dinner - which takes a while - then I stretched out on her couch. I slept lightly for about an hour as she puttered in and out of her bedroom and office, covered me with a quilt, looked at me, mumbled, "Now what was I doing?" all while carrying her lipstick. (She doesn't go anywhere without it.) I enjoyed watching her with one eye while I rested. I finally got up and encouraged her to put on her lipstick so we could go to dinner. "Okay Doll!"
Dinner with Gretchen and Louise - We shared a table with Gretchen (90) and Louise (87) on Saturday evening. Apparently there'd been a "falling out" with these girls a week or two prior, leaving some hurt feelings. I'm still not clear what happened. Gretchen very gently and sweetly passed Mamaw something on the table under her hand and said, "I'm glad you're back. I save these for you every night." They were the croutons from her salad. Mamaw looked at me and said, "Gretchen doesn't like croutons, and I love them." They smiled at one another and held hands a moment. ... Louise was quite chatty through the meal, very nice actually. I overheard Gretchen complain to Mamaw that Louise monopolizes the conversation every time they have a guest. Mamaw agreed.
Why I Don't Have Little Girls - After dinner Saturday night, Mamaw and I were making rounds in the lobby, visiting with some residents. A pretty, petite woman wearing a pink cardigan, using a walker, joined a conversation Mamaw and I were having with four other women. They were asking me about my three sons. The woman in the pink cardigan spoke very loudly and cheerfully, "You have no girls?" No, I said, just the boys. "You didn't move in bed!" she said. I raised my eyebrows. She continued, "If you want girls you need to move a little in bed. You obviously didn't move." A bit embarrassed, I said, "My grandmother's standing right here..." She said, "Whether or not you move in bed has nothing to do with your grandmother Honey." Oh. Thank you.
It's never easy saying goodbye to Mamaw. I feel so loved. She squeezes me hard, pats my rear, kisses me sincerely and shamelessly on the face, then wipes her red lipstick off my cheeks. She tells me to be careful and be good, and blows kisses as I drive away - not moving - until she can no longer see me.