Tuesday, January 14, 2014

98

When I was little my Grandma refused to tell me how old she was. I'd guess and guess and guess but she'd just smile and laugh as she refused to tell me her age.

Well, Grandma, my dad is fifty-two so you have to be older than sixty, right?
Possibly.
Are you older than seventy?
Possibly.
Are you seventy-five?
Possibly.
Are you seventy-six?
Possibly.


I remember the day I found out how old she was. She had taken my younger sister and me shopping for new Easter dresses and the saleslady talked her into signing up for a store credit card. When asked what year she was born my Grandma looked at me and I knew I needed to walk away, so I yanked my sister toward some display while craning my neck and trying to eavesdrop and find out how old Grandma really was.

"What year were you born in?" The cashier asked.
Grandma leaned forward and whispered, "Nineteen sixteen. One-six."

I remember feeling like I had just uncovered the biggest secret of all time. When we got home I did the math on a piece of paper and figured out how old she was... I think at the time it was around 80. Eighty!! I couldn't believe it. I told my older sister I had found out how old Grandma was and I kept that secret for years and years.


And yesterday, Grandma turned 98. She combed her hair, put on some pearls, slipped into her high heels, and held tight to my dad's arm as he led her into the restaurant where we celebrated her life.








My Grandma and I have always been especially close. My Grandpa died when I was a baby and I don't remember him at all, but Grandma tells me about him all the time and I know I would have had a special relationship with him, too. I used to call Grandma every single day and tell her about what I learned that day or which friend I was going to play with that afternoon, and she was always interested in what I was doing. Growing up we would go to her house every single Sunday for lunch and "family time." Grandma often tells me about how I used to always want to sit on her lap while we ate and how my dad was against that, "because if you let her sit on your lap now, she'll always want to do it!" Jokes on you, Dad, I sit in my own chair now.

When the church service was over I would run up to her and ask if she had any gum for me. Grandma always had Bubbleicious bubble gum (which is the BEST kind) in the outside zippered pocket. Then I would ride to her house with her, asking to hear stories the whole way.

Tell me the story of when my dad had a fly in his mouth!
Tell me the story of when you stood on your clarinet case and broke your clarinet!
Tell me the story of when Aunt Janet got bitten by a horse!

And she would. She would tell me stories during the drive, and I never tired of hearing them. Especially the ones that involved my dad being less than a perfect angel. I used to sit in the passenger seat and tell Grandma, "One day when I'm old enough, I'll be driving you home from church and telling you stories!" When that day came it was completely surreal, and I'll admit I got a little choked up.

I remember one day, sitting in the dining room with her while everybody else was off doing their own thing, and we just talked and talked about everything. I don't remember how old I was, but I don't think I was older than 12 or 13. When we were finished talking I looked at Grandma and said, "We just had a real conversation!" I remember being enamored with what had just happened because instead of one of us telling the other some stories, we shared ideas and opinions and I felt like she really cared about what I was saying.




Sometimes, when my parents would go out of town, my siblings and I would spend the night at Grandma's house. She would always make me an egg salad sandwich (cut into triangles), and let me eat all the popsicles I wanted. Seriously. Like, one time I ate an entire box of 36 popsicles and Grandma didn't even care (my metabolism was incredible back then). Grandma had cable, so I could watch all the shows I couldn't at home, like Scooby-Doo, The Jetsons, Full House, and Murder, She Wrote. She would let me eat cheese and crackers and stay up as late as I wanted, and the next day when I finally crawled out of bed at the crack of noon, she would take me outside with her to refill her bird feeders, water the plants, and clean and refill the bird bath. Grandma loves her birds and her flowers. And elephant figurines, but only if the trunks are up (if they're down it's bad luck THE MORE YOU KNOW).

Grandma used to be a beautician in Beverly Hills, and she used to cut my hair and my younger sister's hair for us. She'd do it in her bathroom, and when I'd ask her to "just make it a liiiiittle shorter ... yeah a little shorter ... nope, shorter please," she'd remind me that it would be shorter once it was dry and I'd regret asking her to cut so much off.

She was right. But she pretended to believe me when I said I was glad it was so short.






As Grandma has gotten older she's become less and less capable of doing things for herself. About ten years ago my aunt decided to move back in with her so Grandma wouldn't have to be alone all day and all night. It had gotten to the point where it was hard for Grandma to take care of the house and make all of the meals herself, and she needed help. It was no longer safe for her to be alone or to drive, so she had to give up her independence. And that has been hard on her.



My office is about 5 minutes away from my Grandma's house, so on twice a week I go see her for lunch. It's always bittersweet, because the Grandma I visit now isn't the same Grandma I remember.  Instead of Grandma bustling about the kitchen making the perfect egg salad sandwich, she sits in her chair while her shaking hands slowly lift her coffee cup to her mouth. Instead of her having plate full of food in front of her, I try and convince her to let me boil her an egg or a hot dog. Instead of Grandma telling me the same stories over and over again because I've asked her to, Grandma tells me the same stories over and over again because she doesn't remember that she's already told them. And then Grandma will look at me and say, "Tell me a story, even if it's not true." And I'll try, but I'm usually just thinking about how our interactions are so much the opposite of what they used to be. And instead of Grandma taking me outside to feed the birds and water the plants, I put peanuts on the window railing so Grandma can see the birds from her chair without having to go outside ... because it's too much effort for her to go outside just to see the birds anymore.

Most things are too much effort for Grandma right now, and that's hard to watch. It's hard to watch the Grandma who used to be in charge of Thanksgiving dinner barely be able to stand long enough to mix the corn starch with the turkey drippings to make the gravy. It's hard to watch the Grandma who used to play the piano and clarinet with such nimble fingers barely be able to hold a pen to do the New York Times crossword puzzle. But most of all, it's hard to spend time with Grandma and wonder if this is the last memory I'll have with her.




Ever since Grandma turned 90 it's like we've been preparing for her death. At every holiday there has been an understanding that, this might be Grandma's last Christmas/birthday/Easter/etc so we have to make it extra special! But the only reason we've had that feeling is because Grandma is old. She doesn't have any health problems. She takes a pill to regulate her blood pressure, but she doesn't have any actual health concerns. She's just old, and frail, and forgetful sometimes. And I think that's really hard for her. She can't accept that she can't do the things she used to, and it frustrates her that she can't blame her lack of energy on anything but age. It frustrates her that she can't do the things she used to, and I know every time I refill her water glass for her or offer to fix her a sandwich I'm reminding her of everything she can't do for herself.





My Grandma has taught me a lot in the 25 years I've known her, like how to make the best frosting in the world, how to make the gravy at Thanksgiving, and the difference between a blue jay and a bluebird (Jays are bigger, FYI). But the last few years, she's taught me the importance of attitude and perspective in life. She has taught me that if you look at your life and only see the things you can't do and the things you don't have, you'll be miserable. It's easy to focus on the negatives, but it's also dangerous. Grandma and I talk a lot about dwelling on the negatives, and how much better it is to think about the positives. Imagine if everybody dwelled only on their inabilities rather than their abilities? What kind of world would we live in?

I don't want to spend every day wondering if it's the last day I'll see or talk to Grandma. So instead of dwelling on the what if? I will be thankful that I have had so much time with her. I will be grateful for the things she can do. I will cherish every moment, I will take pictures, I will ask her questions I've never asked before, and most of all, I will never miss an opportunity to tell her how much I love her.















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56 comments:

  1. OH how I LOVE this. I am super close with my Pop-Pop and I couldn't but help see the similarities. It is so hard to see him grow older and not be the same man that I adored and looked up to as a child. But, we are SO lucky to have them be part of our lives. Many are not given that gift. I'm so happy that you have her in your life and that you will hold on to these memories. she is very fortunate to have you as well! And damn! Grandma looks BEAUTIFUL!

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  2. I feel the exactly same way about my grandmother; though she is not 98 (more like 66)! I currently live with her and I love being able to spend as much time with her as I do. She's a beautiful lady, no wonder you're adorable!

    xo fal | falfindshappiness.blogspot.com

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  3. I was just talking to my mom about this exact thing in regards to my great grandma . She is not the same anymore and has to be reminded which grandkid is a sibling vs. A cousin to one another. She thought my mom and I were sisters. She is in Michigan and we are in Arizona, so it makes it extremely hard. I'm kind of in denial that she is getting old and to be honest I'm afraid to see her this year because I know it'll hurt.

    Keep enjoying your moments with her:) she sounds so fun

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  4. she sounds like an absolutely amazing woman and has clearly taught you so much. it's hard not to think about when it will be "the last" but sounds like y'all are making the most out of it and making her feel special. i love this.

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  5. Your grandma looks GREAT ! She's a beautiful woman, and so lucky to have stories with her granddaughter. You are so lucky, I lost the grand parents I lived with when I was 13/14, and than my Abuela passed away last year, but she had Alzheimer's... so she hadn't been "there" for many years...

    I never knew how old my grand parents were until they passed away, they never would tell me there age either ;). happy birthday to your wonderful amazing grandma, and you are absolutely adorable!♥

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  6. What a sweet post about your sweet grandmother. Loved reading this.

    Btw- my mom also collects elephants with the trunk up. If the trunk is down, you better not even think about it. Lol.

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  7. This is beautiful. Your grandma sounds like an absolutely wonderful woman, and you're so lucky to have such an amazing relationship with her!!

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  8. this made me cry SO hard. I'm sitting at my desk hoping no one comes in the front door because I'm still blubbering. What a beautifully written post. Happy Birthday to your Grandma!

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  9. So precious. Your grandma sounds a lot like mine, at least the early years. My grandma has Alzheimer's now, so she doesn't know us anymore. But I love your story. Cherish those memories!

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  10. Your Grandma is obviously a very special lady to you, I can feel the love in your words. My Grandma lost her battle with cancer a little over two years ago and not a day goes by that I wish I could have told her I loved her one more time. Your Grandma has an amazing outlook on life, we should all definitely start looking at the positives rather than the negatives, the world would probably be a much happier place.

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  11. This is so precious. Beautiful memories that will last forever.

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  12. This is such a beautiful post. Your grandma sounds absolutely wonderful and looks pretty damn amazing for 98. : )

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  13. That's the sweetest post I've ever read. Reminds me SO much of my Grandma and I. I'm bawling over here! Thanks for this post! ❤

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  14. This post completely choked me up. My grandma was in her early 90's and passed this past september. I didn't get to say goodbye nor go to the funeral. I regret it everyday. And I love her so much because I was sort of named after her but we have the exact same initials. so I love wearing my monogram proud! It's awesome you see her so often. You are awesome, never forget it!

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  15. This is such a wonderful post, I definitely got a little choked up. Your grandma looks amazing for being 98!

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  16. What a beautiful post. I got a little emotional because I live far away from my grandparents (she's 90 and he's almost 95). I was back home visiting last week and when I left I definitely wondered if that was the last time I would see one (or both) of them. Its tough watching people we love get older, but it sounds like she has lived a beautiful life and you're lucky to have so many memories of her to pass on to your kids one day.

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  17. Love love love love love this. I never knew either one of my grandfathers. I was never very close to my parental grandmother for various reasons, so I was upset when she passed away but not incredibly so. My maternal grandmother was my favorite person in the entire world. I lost her when I was 13, and I felt my world crash around me. Sometimes I'm envious of people who have grandparents that have lived so long, but at the same time, I'm almost thankful that I was able to make it through the grieving process at such a young age. Regardless, hug your grandmother a little extra for those of us who haven't had that opportunity in many years.

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  18. This is so sweet! Your grandma sounds wonderful and you are lucky to have each other :)

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  19. God! This is such a beautiful post. Straight from the heart. I could not help adding it to my pinterest box. Sometimes we forget that we need to cherish the moments we have with the ones we love...

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  20. crying.
    I lost all of my grandparents pretty young. Well, I lost my final grandparent in college, but he lived in Florida for most of my life and had about a million grandchildren so I never felt very close with him. I never really had a grandparent that I was close with at all, but I always really wanted one so I get extra emotional around old people. Once I cried at a local deli because I noticed the cutest old man ever and he was battling with his waitress because he wanted to leave a large tip and she wanted him to take it back. When an older couple walks near me? You might as well hand me a box of tissues immediately. I just get so happy to see their relationship and I just want to know everyone's back story.
    You're amazingly lucky to have such a great relationship with your grandmother, even though it's been bittersweet over the last few years. Thank you for sharing!

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  21. What a great post! You look gorgeous in all these pics, and so does gram! I'm glad she's still rockin it at 98. Love you!

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  22. Beautiful words!! And I remember doing the same thing, at some she must have just given up because it's not a secret anymore and we just know--but we don't say it to her :)

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  23. This is, hands down, the most beautiful, most well written post I've ever read. So true, and such a hard thing to put into words.

    spielitsarah.blogspot.com

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  24. I've said this before, but this is probably my favorite post you've ever written. You are such a good writer and I choked up more than once. I had a very similar childhood with my Grandma and then she got really sick and she lost her memory and when I go and visit her sometimes she doesn't remember what day it is, or the last time I saw her, or if it's been a long day she can't even say my name and it breaks my heart. But never fear because you know who Grandma loves and never forgets about? Fitz. She is obsessed with that dog and she lights up every time she sees him and it makes my day every time.

    Loved this post and love your face.

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  25. What a blessing to have been able to know your grandma for so long. She sounds wonderful! I love your positive outlook on the days going forward. What a great granddaughter she has!
    Eva

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  26. This was beautiful. She looks fantastic for 98!! I lost my grandfather at 72 6 years ago and I'd do anything to have more time with him.

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  27. I love this so very much. I have read your blog for so long and I always laugh at what you say and I think you're funny but being ten years older and married...our lives are in completely different places so I didn't always relate. But this my girl. It made me tear up as I read it. I have such a special relationship with mine too. We took trips everywhere together and she would always make the yummiest macaroni and homemade biscuits each night. Many a weekend in college I decided to forgo heading the town so I could spend the weekend at their house. I always liked you, but this solidified thinking you're pretty awesome. Your heart speaks through these pictures. and I am done now;)

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  28. I couldn't even make it through this because oh my god my eyes are leaking tears. I will try again soon, I promise. You are so fortunate, so so fortunate. I love it all so much. xoxo.

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  29. I teared up over this. You have such a beautiful and amazing relationship with a woman who sounds like she loves you even more.

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  30. What a great relationship you two have and I am sure she appreciates your visits. It is so tough watching our loved ones getting old and more frail. I lost my Nana two years ago and it was so hard to lose her. She is the one who helped me with my knitting. Cherish every moment.

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  31. This made me cry. My relationship with my grandma was a lot like this - she was truly my best friend. She passed away a little more than 2 years ago and I miss her every single day. Cherish your time!

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  32. This is beautiful! Your Grandma sounds awesome, Happy Birthday to her!!

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  33. What a sweet lovely post. My grandma turned 99 this past October so I relate to just about everything you wrote.

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  34. This post is perfect, Juliette! It reminds me so much of the relationship I have with my Mom-Mom and with the one Mom-Mom who passed away this summer. I love your attitude towards the time you share with each other!

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  35. I love this post. But goodness it made me bawl. My grandpa was my world. My absolute world. But both he and my Grandma were in their early 80's. They were, in fact, old. Your last paragraph is the one that got to me. We, too, lived each gathering with the understanding it could be the last. But it felt silly. Sure, they were old, but they were so healthy!!! No signs of anything wrong. Grandpa was still golfing regularly and bowled weekly on his bowling league. They were active and cared for themselves. How things changed so quickly I still don't understand. May his mouth hurt. May his wisdom teeth were removed and tumor was found. June he had an intense surgery to remove the cancer. We were told, worst case scenario, he'd have 1-2 years if treatment didn't work. Okay, so we hope for many more but make the most of holidays. Two months later, in August, my hero traded his cape for wings. My cancer buddy lost his too short battle. I love your outlook. Of being thankful for all the wonderful years and memories you have. I'm happy you're able to see her often. Sadly I lived 15 hours away (but I was at his bedside when he passed). Your grandmother seems so sweet. What you two have it special and it's great that you recognize it. Here's to many, many, many more years with her!!!!

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  36. Beautiful post (and you both look gorgeous in those pictures!). My grandparents all lived far away from our immediately family and we only saw them a few times a year... I remember getting so sad driving away because I knew every time we saw them could be the last time! But really, I'm just so thankful for all the memories I have with them. Plus, the last time I see anyone COULD be the last time, but it probably doesn't do much good to dwell on that fact! I'm glad you're taking the time to ask your Grandma questions and have real conversations... I wish I had done more of that!

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  37. i LOVE this so much! this is the type of relationship i want my daughter to have with her grandparents. your grams is a beautiful woman!

    kathy
    Vodka and Soda

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  38. This is a beautiful post. I miss my grandmother all the time. I wish I had as much time as you had with yours, but I am glad that you cherish every moment with her :)

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  39. Oh. So. Lovely! This is such beautiful post! Happy Birthday to her again! To be honest, I don't know what's the age of my grandmom, she doesn't remember or hey! she might wants to keep it a secret from us! You both look gorgs!

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  40. Well thanks to you, I'm crying at my desk right now. What a beautiful story! Your relationship with your grandma reminds me a lot of the one I had with my grandfather. Grandparents are so incredible and you are so lucky to have the relationship that you do! Continue to cherish that (I'm sure you will).

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  41. Well, this made me cry! Happy Birthday to your Grandma! I just lost my Grandpa about 2 months ago, so I totally understand what you're saying about making the most out of every time you see her. Even if it doesn't end up being the "last time", it doesn't hurt to act like it always is. :) Thanks for this!

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  42. this is seriously the sweetest post ever. your grandma looks great! this post made me a little sad that i don't have an incredible relationship like you do with grandma. i didn't really grow up with grandparents because they lived in mexico and colombia while i've been in california for 25 years. i've seen them here and there during vacations, but nothing super significant. i'm lovingggg all the vintage juliette photos! you were such a cute kid!

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  43. This is such a beautiful post! Happy birthday to your grandma!

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  44. This brought tears to my eyes, such a beautiful post about a very special lady!

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  45. Juliette. You know I don't cry. YOU KNOW THIS. And this brought a friggin tear to my eye and almost cause me to have a freaking breakdown at my desk.
    For that, I hate you.

    But this is seriously so beautiful and I love it so much. It makes me think of the amazing relationship I had with my grandmother (both of them, and my grandfather... but one grandmother in specific). I miss her dearly, and had a very similar relationship with her. I think about her often, and this just brought back a flood of memories, and emotions... and again, I'm struggling so hard not to cry right now.

    Happy birthday to your amazing grandmother. Like you said, enjoy every single moment that you have with her and just be so grateful for the time you can spend with her. The amount of time you've had with her is wonderful.

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  46. I couldnt have said all this any better. My grandmother (my "Oma" in German) just died in November when she was 92 years old. And your thoughts seem to come straight out of my head- I was always soooo scared of her death that I couldnt really enjoy being with her.
    Your blog is amazing! Thanks for that... Many greetings from Germany...

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  47. Happy birthday to your Grandma. 98 years young. I miss my Grandma everyday. We have similar relationships with them. Love you.

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  48. This brought tears to my eyes. Like yours, my grandma let me do whatever I wanted and even when I was mean to her, she always forgave so easily. My grandma passed away when I was 13 and I miss her very much. I always say I had the best grandma in the world, but I'm sure most of us feel that way. That relationship is so special.

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  49. A beautiful post and tribute to your grandma. My grandma lived to be 94 and the last few years were difficult on her as she struggled with Alzheimers and the effects of old age. We will all get to that point and hopefully, if we're lucky, we'll have a granddaughter like you to have conversations with and to enjoy the birds visiting on our windowsill.

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  50. Wow, this is such a beautiful post. Your grandmother seems like an incredible woman. I remember learning when my grandmother was born (1925) I thought it was soooo long ago and I was so amazed that she had lived through so many different eras. It's so sad to see the people we love get older, but it;s important to remember how lucky we are to have such special people in our lives. I'm glad you get to live near your grandmother. Both of mine live in different states, so it's hard. Thanks for sharing something so close to your heart!

    xo Megan, Lush to Blush

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  51. Hi, I just stumbled upon your blog from somewhere else in the blog universe and I just wanted to let you know that I know how you feel and I think you're so lucky to be able to go see your grandma twice a week for lunch. My grandma took such good care of me as a kid/young adult and now I live 500 mi away, and sometimes I really hate myself for that! Anyway, I just wanted to let you know you touched my heart!

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  52. Wow. This is so honest and real and truly beautiful. I've been feeling kind of the same way about my grandparents recently, watching them get older is just plain hard. I love your attitude though, gratitude is such a better approach than "what if." I love this, thanks for so beautifully articulating it. Oh, but now I'm mad at you for making me cry.

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  53. this is a great post, lady. i'm sorry i've not read it until just now, but i must say, it's one of the better ones i've seen in the blogosphere. you did GOOD. :]

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