Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mandatory visit

We’re in Atlanta for a visit with friends and family. Planning these trips back home is difficult because I could never see everyone I’d like to see which is a good/bad thing.

One non-negotiable visit for this trip was with my grandmother. She recently moved to an assisted living facility; she fought that move for years, but now, at 93, she realized she needed a bit of help. My grandfather’s been gone for 13 years and for all that time she’s taken care of everything. Until a few months ago she lived on her own. She drove to church and the grocery store and post office and she took care of her house and all that goes along with that. But a few medical scares and difficulties led her to the decision it was time to accept some help.

My parents, aunts and uncle and several cousins have all been to visit her in her new digs. I had not. I also had not written or called, facts she didn’t hesitate to tell my dad each time she talked to him. I was in the dog house. So when I peeked in her room I wasn’t sure what she’d say – she’s notorious for biting comments like, “I nearly forgot about you!” or, “I thought you’d died.” I was not looking forward to the guilt trip.

But she was so frail – frailer than the last time I’d seen her several months ago. And with the loss of her energy it seemed she’d lost some of the steam that fueled the remarks I dreaded. I just hugged her neck and said, “Hi Mama Mary. It’s good to see you.”

She took us on a tour of the facility, which is lovely. She showed us her place in the dining hall, and Dad took us upstairs to see the craft room and movie theater. (Michael and Amy said they wouldn’t mind living there!) The staff we spoke with seemed genuinely interested in the residents and the whole place seemed lively and open and inviting. There wasn’t that nasty old people smell so many places like that have.

We took pictures with her and the kids and I couldn’t help but wonder if we’ll see her again. We’ve always joked she’ll outlive us all; after seeing her Sunday I’m not sure I’ll make that joke again.

I’m glad she’s in a place where she’ll receive care when she needs it. I’m glad she’s not responsible for the upkeep of her house. I’m glad someone’s monitoring her meds. And I’m glad she has so many friends in the place.

I’m also glad she let me out of the doghouse – even thought she's a bit of a grouch (and, honestly, always has been) I don’t know how much time I have left to call or write her but I don’t intend neglect that granddaughter duty again.