|my grandmother at 19 years of age|
Looking at this slide show made me think about my 83 year-old grandmother, Nan, and her recent bout of depression. Depression might not be the right word for it. Sheer boredom, having no job to wake up to, no family to take care of, realizing that most of your friends are dead, and dealing with a domestic partner that is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s Disease is more like it.
|my grandmother in her 40’s|
I talk to my grandmother multiple times in a week. She is my second mom and outside of a few stories that would only make her stay up and worry all night (something that she is very good at), I share everything with her. When I call her, I can’t wait to hear the enthusiastic, “Hi sweetheart!” on the other line. I reply with with, “Hi grandma! How are you?” but I always know the line that comes next- a pause, then a faint, “Ok”. This is not a jubilant “ok”, this is a my-life-is-just-ok “ok”. I usually ask her what is wrong and she repeats, “I’m bored. My life is boring.” No matter how many times she says this it never fails to bother me. Though my mother lives across the street and I call her often, that will never change the fact that she is 83 years old and so many aspects of her life are different now.
I listen to her as she explains her frustration that she is no longer in complete control of her body and mind. Recently she had Carpal Tunnel surgery and currently has a slipped disc in her back. Though she is stoic and a martyr in all the best ways a Jewish woman can be, she can’t help but voice her “disgust” that she just can’t get up and go go go like she used to. I point out that she’s 83, goes to the gym 3-4 days a week, and she always looks like she just stepped out of a movie. However, that is not good enough for my grandmother and I believe that this tenacity is what has kept her so vivacious for all these years.
When my grandmother and I have these conversations I try to put myself in her shoes. Becoming old is something we all do, but not something we understand until we experience it. I try thinking about watching the people that I love come and go, to wake up every morning feeling that there is little to look forward to, that the highlights of my day consist of going to the grocery store, that I can’t walk like I used to, talk like I used to, and I’m just plain old tired. Of course this picture is not the same for all senior citizens, but it is for most, if not worse, and I think about the lack of patience we have as a society for the elderly. How our lack of understanding and fear of getting old makes us react negatively towards the people who often need our help the most.
|my 83 year-old, plastic surgery-less grandmother, photo taken last december|
I will be seeing my grandmother for the first time in almost a year next week. I’m beyond excited. I’m also scared. Scared to see her with a little less spunk in her step and a little more tiredness in her eyes. I’m also scared to see her partner, my surrogate grandfather, Lionel, going through forgetting our names, not waking up until noon, and telling my grandmother that he wants to die.
I’m scared because when I see her, I want do everything for her. I want to take her boredom away. I want to bring her friends back. I want to make me a little girl again. I want to take her all over the world. I want to make her a superhero…but I can’t.
Are/were close with your grandparents? What are your thoughts on aging?