I had only one grandmother who lived with my family. She was a part of the daily life of our house for 6 months out of the year before going to spend the other half of the year with my uncle and his family.
My own mother adored her grandchildren and so I got to watch her with my children until she faded away with dementia. She became the person that she wouldn’t have wanted to be. Her driving skills began to be in question and she became easily annoyed with loud noises. She fell and broke ribs and masked her face with black eyes.
Her older grandchildren began to ask questions that were very hard to answer. They witnessed her choking on a piece of steak and the subsequent Heimlich maneuver. It is a memory that we reference with a “remember when Mamie choked at the dinner table?” My family is tinged with the Irish gift of black humor so this often starts a round of other experiences. I like to think that my mother is laughing with us now that she is gone.
Her younger grandchildren do not have a memory of the woman she was and that saddens me. My mother would dance with a grandchild learning to walk or wear a silly mask while cooking breakfast. She would put her bathing suit on to swim in a hot tub with her naked grandchildren. My mother once jumped in the lake and swam 100 yards pulling a pontoon boat when the motor went out. She would wait an hour in the fast food line to get fried chicken from Hardees for her grandchildren.
She was fierce in her love for all of her grandchildren even the ones that didn't know the woman behind the disease.
I think witnessing the fleeting aspect of awareness has permitted me to be the grandmother that paints or practices catch in the backyard. We shrug off the daily chores to make chalk drawings on the driveway. We loosen the tugging of the have-to’s. My house gets wrecked and my duties laid aside but I get to be a part of those things that I missed when I was a mother.
I get to be along side a 6 year old and a 4 year old. I do not remember much from those ages as a six year old or 4 year old. And I do remember with some chagrin, how concerned I was with mealtimes, naptimes and laundry and cleanliness as a mother.
I cannot raise these kids as a parent and nor would I want to. They are not mine to raise. They have fine parents who are in charge.
So I am getting a “do- over” in some minute way with my grandchildren. Or maybe a “be-over” is a better description.