A few weeks ago my dad had to make the difficult decision to put my grandmother in a nursing home. She just couldn't stay in her big house without my grandfather and round the clock care is prohibitively expensive. So, this past weekend I went home to help clean out their house, which was a pretty intense experience, lots of ups and downs. I've never had to clean someone else's home and, although I know it has to be done, it was still hard to sort through things and make judgments on what is important. All of it was important to my grandmother. Everything has a memory. I know that my habit of collecting (sometimes hoarding) must have been influenced by my grandma. She has newspaper clippings of engagements and scholarships, thousands of photos of family and friends, suitcases full of blank greeting cards that she would send out to every one of her children and grandchildren for each holiday. And out of everything we went through, a very short list sticks with me.
*The wedding bands of her parents, my great grandparents, tucked inside an envelope for safe keeping in her jewelry box, labeled mama's rings in her distinct handwriting.
*Her wedding dress from her first marriage. This is my dad's dad who died before I could ever meet him. She showed me the dress just before I was married. It's still wrapped in tissue paper. I'm going to tuck it under my bed.
*A stack of love letters that her first husband wrote to her while they were courting. They're wrapped in a pink and white striped ribbon and tucked into her cedar chest next to my dad's highschoool report card.
*A ceramic bear cookie jar that sat on her counter and was filled with cookies. Grandpa had a sweet tooth.
*Dozen's of patterned sheets and aprons. She and my grandfather owned a cottage and I envision these sheets on those beds, with the windows open so the fresh lake air could come in. They're in my washer now, getting ready to be used again.
I think the transition has been hard on her. Her body aches and she was admitted to a hospital a few days ago. When I visited her she was doing better than the previous days, but she was still more frail than I had last seen her. Her Alzheimer's is getting worse and I didn't know if she would remember me. She did, though. We talked about canning jams, she told me she was going to a wedding, she asked to call my grandfather as we got ready to leave. I'm so glad I had the chance to visit and now I have some idea of what my dad has been dealing with. I couldn't have gotten through it without the support of a dear friend, who drove me home, sorted through boxes, and helped me talk to my grandmother. We drove home into a bright pink sunset that lasted almost an hour, my grandmother's favorite color.
I really debated about posting something so personal here and I know that it's subject matter that most bloggers don't put out there for everyone to read. But, I don't keep a journal of any other sort and there are memories here that I want to hold on to. Thank you for bearing with me.