Thursday, November 18, 2010

Grandma Nell

Isn’t she cute? This is my grandma who is 99 ½ years old. Next May she will turn 100, Lordwilling.

A couple of weekends ago I was in Florida with some friends, and I took a Sunday afternoon to go visit her. She lives just five minutes away from where we were staying, so I went.

That last paragraph sounds so magnanimous, but I’m ashamed to admit that I almost didn’t go. I mean, I’m not a huge fan of nursing homes. They make me super-uncomfortable, and when I get super-uncomfortable I start to giggle or cry or, worse yet, giggle-cry at the same time.

So I try to avoid those uncomfortable situations as much as I can. Kind of like those buffet-line restaurants. Those places make me uncomfortable too, what with all the sharing of utensils and germs and such. I’m afraid I’ll break out in a giggle-cry when I’m in there, so I avoid those places too.

At all costs.

But my dear friend and college roommate, Jennifer, the girl who once broke her “Who” album right in front of me, convinced me to put on my big girl panties and go visit my grandma. See, Jennifer is a palliative care doctor. Fancy, huh? (I had to Google it, but those docs help people with end-of-life issues. Not fun.)

I’m so glad there are people like Jennifer out there though. You know, the sensitive types who will hold someone’s hand and help them through the greatest crises of their lives.

Kind of like when B and I were dating in college and in one of our famous fights when Jennifer turned to me and said something like, “Geesh, Shelly, either date him or don’t. I don’t care.” She was famous for her sensitivity.

I think she’s turned a corner these days, though, because when she visited me at Homecoming this fall and I told her I was going to be in Florida, she said, “So, are you going to visit your grandma?”

I had thought about it, but wasn’t so sure I wanted to put myself into the super-uncomfortable situation of having to visit a nursing home, so I said, “Oh, I don’t know yet.”

“You should go see her,” Jen said. “She’s 99 years old. If she dies, you’ll feel terrible that you were right there in the same town and didn’t go see her.”

See what I mean? Sensitivity is her middle name.

I hate to admit it, but Jennifer was right. I called my uncle, who also lives in that town, and asked if he would take me over to visit Grandma. We spent two lovely hours together, walking Grandma around outside (she was in a wheelchair, of course—I pushed. You didn’t expect a 99-year-old woman to walk herself, did you?), and visiting together.

Amazingly, Grandma seemed to recognize me and understand that I had come to see her. She grasped my hand and didn’t let it go for much of our visit. She rubbed the back of my hand against her cheek and kissed it several times. A few times she gave me a really huge smile and just shook all over. Like she was so excited that I was there.

For me, though, the best part of the visit came when it was time to leave. (Wait. That didn’t come out right.) I sat on her couch and got very near her face to say good-bye. I stroked her cheek one last time and told her that I loved her.

And then my grandma, who had barely said a word during my visit, looked deeply into my eyes and said so clearly, “I love you.”

That was it. I left. And obviously I wonder if that might have been my last visit with my grandma on this side of Heaven.

If she makes it to 100, I’ll be back in Florida next May. If not, I may be back sooner.

But no matter when I see her again, I’m glad I had this visit.

Thanks, Jen.



  1. Is this your Grandma on your mom's side?

    You are SO fortunate to be as old as we are (sorry) and still HAVE a grandparent. I haven't had any for almost 30 years. And that one wasn't my favorite. Oops. Did I say that?

    I think it is great that Jen motivated you to go. I understand how you feel. My MIL is in a nursing home and it is HARD to go there.

    Your Grandma looks awesome for her age. Great post!

  2. Thanks, Linda. Yes, my mom's mom. I know I'm fortunate to have her, especially at MY AGE! :)

  3. Funny thing...your Jen sounds JUST like my Jenny, queen of blunt and sensitivity! ;-) but sometimes we need those people too! ha!

    This post made me smile and teary at the same last living grandparent is 96. Glad you got to see your grandma!

  4. Oh, Shelly I know what you mean by putting the "big girl panties on". This is tough. But, you will have such a peace - for having made this two hour visit!!!
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  5. Shelly, I'm so glad you went to see your grandma. Although I'm also glad you were honest about not wanting to. I actually only have one grandparent left; Mark doesn't have any. I was in town right before my Granny died and didn't visit her. I still feel bad. I did see her before she died, but she was in the hospital by then. Anyway, I'm glad you went to see your grandma. (Also - I'm terrible with old people, and sad things make me giggle-cry, too.)

  6. Every one needs a friend like that who push one out of their comfort zones. So glad you got that visit with your Grandma and that you two shared that sweet moment. I only had the privilege of seeing either of my Grandma's once in my life.