Saturday, March 21, 2009

In Praise of the Unfinished.

I don’t think I will win any awards as my family’s greatest grandson anytime soon. I’m fairly certain of that fact.

I have but one 88-year-old grandma still living and she isn’t doing so well of late. She’s in and out of the hospital on a very regular basis, is legally blind (though she doesn’t do too bad with her remaining 20%) and talks about her needing to read lips sometimes to hear the words of others. And, to get from point A to point B, she requires a rolling walker, as well as one or two steady, guiding hands.

(Sidenote: I don’t ever mind being those hands, either, not in the least.)

First off, I don’t visit enough. I don’t call her on a very regular basis. And, when my aunt from another state puts out the rallying cry to visit my grandma in the hospital to help lift her spirits some, I’ve had reason to be elsewhere every single time.

One thing I was able to do for her last Sunday, however, was drive her to my sister’s house for a joint birthday celebration (hers, along with a couple of her great-grandchildren). I get to do that sometimes. It’s a good 30 minutes or so in the car to get there. So, once we catch up on one another’s lives some, she takes to rambling.

Rambling is what she calls it, something she apologizes for when it’s all over with. For me, though, I love to hear her stories. It’s like reading a history book, honestly. Sometimes they’re about her brother or sister or her past life as an eager traveler. Now and again there is a moral, but there’s always a strong opinion attached (like the time she said then President-Elect Barrack Obama should receive an Oscar for Best Actor).

I think it’s in the midst of her storytelling when she feels most vibrant to me. The body is not what it once was but the mind? Sharp as a tack. Even when she speaks of wanting to die before she needs to move again, I end up thinking she’s being more practical than emotional. Because that time is drawing near, just a few months from now (moving, that is). In her own words, “Those who want me don’t have room and those who have room don’t want me!”

I guess that, once you reach a certain age, fear is stripped from death. You’ve experienced it all and now want to move on towards that next stage, the one where the pain stops. With my grandma, she wonders aloud with a certain level of curiosity as to why God has kept her around as long as He has. In her mind, she’s finished.

This is a poem from Polish poet Julia Hartwig’s book In Praise of the Unfinished, something that made me think of my own grandma almost immediately. I’m not sure how she’d take it, so I haven’t shared it with her specifically, but it speaks of a truth that is both sad and encouraging all at the same time.

I Will Perform This Miracle for You

dedicated to H.

They love her so much that they hate the old age growing in her. Tall and handsome they walk by her side, and look at her with the eyes of their childhood.
Until now, they hear her voice ringing in their ears like an Easter bell swinging in the friendly wind. It always accompanied her quick movements, carrying objects toward her.
So when she trips in the street, they hiss: Grandma, don’t pretend!
And when she hunches over, they call: Grandma, straighten up!
Hearing it, a stranger would consider them cruel.
But once more she makes the effort, straightens up, her face flooded by the light of love.


Laurie said...

That was *incredibly* moving, Dainon.

Mel said...

I feel as you do, and I've told her, that every minute I am able to spend with her is a gift. She inspires me through every story.

jess said...

enjoyable writer you are

carly said...

Women sit or move to and fro, some old, some young,
The young are beautiful--but the old are more beautiful than the young.

i think your grandma looks like an amazing lady full of stories and secrets. just love her as much as you can.

stan said...

Yeah. I get the sentiments. Sometimes I wish I could spend more time with my granny to hear stories of her youth and adult days like u did. This is Asia. Sigh.