Sixteen years ago

I prepared. I read pertinent books and attended seminars. I spluttered and worried, especially when things first were supposed to really get going.

We had moved into our house in August. All was lined up for me to plop this show on the road, but then the needs of a dear one couldn't be ignored. My grandmother who lived three miles from our new home had just received open heart surgery. Other relatives were hours away.

I began tending to Grandma Edna's needs: driving her for groceries, filling her insulin needles, dealing with her bookkeeping.

"We're supposed to start homeschooling. Yesterday!" I wailed, quietly, in my bedroom on my knees.

My two children accompanied me on adventures with Grandma Edna. We stopped with her to chat whenever a scraggy man or woman approached. "Hey, Edna," they would greet. "How's it going? We've seen better times, huh?"

Sometimes the old friends would relate to me how Edna helped them out of a tight spot back in the day. I knew some had been drug users. They could always crash at Edna's, to the chagrin of her neighbors.

I clenched my teeth, checking out at the grocery store. Grandma Edna's Oregon Trail food stamp card didn't work correctly when she gave it a shaky swipe through the machine. People in line behind us lost patience. Edna wrote a check sometimes.

I knew her finances might not cover it. I took her home and loaded her refrigerator and bade her farewell till we could go over bills again tomorrow.

Then at home I sat Victoria in a wooden elementary school desk, and we opened books. With her pencil she turned numbers into flowers and animals. Early into her lessons she slouched and fidgeted.

My stomach hurt.

By the next spring we would have little to show for our launch into homeschool kindergarten. Grandma Edna would be recovered enough to start up old tricks. She'd buy a Nissan, never make a payment on it, but at least be able to drive it until the repossessor came. She would visit us unannounced or phone asking Tim to fix things.

Though Victoria's eyes would glaze at the sight of addition worksheets and she'd rather I read to her than we practice ABC's, she would excel at drawing, coloring, painting. I'd begin a journey with her each evening through The Lord of the Rings.

My son would romp gleefully with the puppy we would acquire from Grandma Edna. Someone gave her the tiny, black-with-brown canine she named Brindy. Within two days Grandma Edna realized raising a pooch was beyond her. A miracle (and much small-child imploring) would make Tim grant our request to keep her.

We'd also be given a duckling, and not long afterward would find a garter snakeling. Quacker and Jafar would become handy educators, and both would be released again one day into more accustomed environs.

Grandma Edna would need me on and off for eight more years. I would struggle, and laugh, and cry, and continue.


Pam said…
You painted those memories beautifully with your words, Deanna. We too had to factor in caring for my grandma through some of the early homeschool years with my kids. In the end we can see the many life lessons that were learned. But at the time it was hard to appreciate the struggle.
Deanna said…
I felt a grandma connection to you, Pam, when you wrote about the years you spent caring for your own. Different stories, but with similar ups, downs, and important life lessons, I'm sure.
DeadMansHonda said…
Geez eyes are all misty now. I cried through this....but ended it with:

And THEN?! What happened next?

Well told, my friend.
Deanna said…
Aw, thanks, Lady Honda. I could write a book about my relationship with this grandma. Maybe I will someday.
Anonymous said…
Oh, this is amazing and made my heart hurt. So many people today forget the elderly, regardless of whether they are family or not. Thankfully, you will never be part of that group.

The little almost farm you acquired made me smile...
Marianne Elixir said…
Lovely and terrifying thoughts as I now move toward such a phase. I am happy to know those who have walked (limped and crawled) through it and can encourage me to keep taking one hour at a time.
Deanna said…
Thanks, Uncommon Life Lady D. You know about caring for family and people of all ages. You and your sisters seem to travel courageously into these realms.

Marianne, you're right that we go along in increments. And the many gifts we receive are the ones we need to keep going and growing.

Now I'm all overly-smushy and misty-eyed. Thanks for connecting, each of you, and helping me process the past.