Who are the Grands?

They are 90 and 93, and they live each day like there is no tomorrow. Because there may not be. Their minds are not what they used to be and their bodies are breaking down bit by bit, but inside those old minds and bodies they are the same independent-minded young people that forged their own way in this world and made a good life for themselves. This is both a blessing and a challenge, as you'll see in the posts below. Welcome to our journey!

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve, Grandma-style

Today is New Year's Eve, but yesterday was when Grandma and I celebrated. I had to pick up my 17-year-old son Lliam from the train station after his visit to family up north, so I decided to invite my 90-year-old Grandma along to see the sights in Chicago.

I guess I am what they call sandwiched. I am caught between elder care and parenting. Sometimes it's frustrating and exhausting, but I wouldn't have it any other way. But there's no doubt that the responsibilities mount when I've got multiple doctor's appointments and struggles with insurance companies on one end and new drivers and dating on the other end. So I figure I may as well make the sandwich experience as joyful and fun as possible.

We arrived in the city early, and Lliam's train was late so we drove around the city a bit. I showed her Michigan Avenue, Lakeshore Drive, the Field Museum, and the Art Institute. She remembered being in Chicago with friends years ago. She couldn't remember why they had been there, but they'd gone to see the King Tut exhibit and they'd gone to the top of the Sears Tower. She was thrilled to remember these things. She said, "Lara, thank you. I would never have remembered all of this."

We wove our way back to Macy's. I planned to take Grandma to Macy's which is now in the old Marshall Field building downtown because it is the closest thing to Hudson's Department Store in Detroit back in the '60s and '70s. When I was a little girl, Grandma would take me to Hudson's and we would shop the many floors, looking at all the pretty things. Grandma would try on clothes and she would pick out things for me. I would pick out things for me, too. Sometimes I got bored when she had to try on 14 different dresses, but it was still fun.

Then we'd go to lunch in the nice restaurant there. I'd swing my legs under the table while she fussed over how I placed my napkin in my lap and how I used my fork. If I spilled anything, my napkin went immediately into her glass of water and then to the new spot on my dress to treat the stain.

Yesterday was my attempt to recreate that memory for both of us. We walked along the city street, Grandma with her walker and me holding onto her arm for extra support. She was so self-conscious about the walker. She kept saying that no one else had one. I told her that was only because they weren't as strong and adventurous as my grandma.

It was cold and the wind was howling, but we made it across the busy intersection and into the store. We marveled over the Christmas decorations and how beautiful everything looked.

For lunch, I'd planned to take her to The Walnut Room in the center of the store. We had to wait for about two hours to get seated, but it was everything we had hoped it would be. The two-and-half story Christmas tree in the center was absolutely stunning. Grandma took the best seat at our table where she could see it. She told me, "I got here first" without any remorse at all. I told her I was glad she had it, because this was her special day.

We ordered our food and split the pretzel roll bread loaf they gave us as an appetizer. When our meals came, we talked about this and that and shared whether we liked it. Most of all, we shared memories. I told her that I remembered her taking me to lunch and shopping just like this when I was little. Grandma reminisced about going out to lunch and shopping with her friends back when she was my age. She said, "This is how it was when Louise, Gena, Lee, and all of us would go into the city and shop." The walnut wood trim, the traditional white tablecloths, and the professional waitstaff were all part of that picture. She said, "It's so nice to remember, but it makes me sad, too. Because I'll never get those days back."

She's right. We never will get them back. But at the end of the day, after picking up Lliam and heading home, Grandma gave me a great big hug. She held me for longer than usual, and her voice was filled with emotion. She said, "Thank you, Lara. Thank you." I told her, "Thank you. You made it special."

I will never get this day back. But Lord willing, I'll always remember how precious it was.

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