Today, I went with my mother to see my grandma. She still lives in her three-story house that she entertained friends, cared for her grandchildren, and hosted holiday parties.
Those things don’t happen anymore.
That house used to be filled with life and now it seems big, dark and empty. It is too much for her, even though she is surprisingly strong and independent. Perhaps determined and stubborn are better descriptions.
We went to visit and help her fill the donation bags for tomorrow’s pick up. Dusty encyclopedias, unwanted clothes, extra bedding, and holiday lights that are no longer used, filled bags and boxes left by the garage.
She talks about moving, but I look around and I can see why she is overwhelmed because even I am overwhelmed by the idea of this move.
Each room, filled with treasures that remind her of someone who she loves or has loved.
Today, she seemed to be determined to tell me stories of her past, of my family history, as if there wasn’t much time. I found out things today that I had never heard and she loved that I listened intently. Her stories held my attention surprisingly long, not once a glimpse at my phone or clock. That would have been disrespectful during today’s education that she was providing.
She asked me about possessions that I wanted and I said “yes” many times. The table that is unlike no other, marked with my great grandfather’s cigarette burns that seemed to add character instead of needing sanding. The ornaments that I have seen yearly on her tree for as far back as my memories will take me.
The few times that I said “no thanks” the responses were accepted surprisingly well; especially since I was saying “no” to things that must have meant something to her at one time.
I spoke about the benefits of a clean, light new apartment or condo. Close to all of us. I spoke about the possibilities and she listened…I think.
She said that we can’t understand the emotions of walking away from your home of fifty years. I can’t understand. But I understand my family’s fear for her health and safety. I understand the emotions that I will feel when it is the last time that I am in that house.
I have waved goodbye to her in front of that house for more than forty years. First, while she hugged my grandfather and now as she stands alone. Her hair has changed, the size of her glasses have increased and than decreased, the style of pants that she wears, but it has always been in front of that house. Always.
How do you say goodbye to THAT house?