Grandmas, Daycares, and Nursing Homes

Growing up I was addicted to my grandma. For some reason we had a special bond when I was little. Maybe it was because I was the youngest, or maybe I just spent the most time with her, but I had a way of getting her to laugh, smirk, and end her sentence with: “Oh, Tami.” Usually because I was doing something that she would have thought girls should not do or talk about, and yet I had to be different and try to do what I could to “shock her.” I was a good girl, yes, but she was easy to shock.

While in some ways my sister and I had the strangest relationship with my grandma (she was not always there for us in ways she should have been) but she also was sometimes there in ways we would not have expected. Part of it was her upbringing, part of it was that I do not think she knew how to handle us. Since my mom died when we were quite young, my grandma was our stand in. That does not mean she became mother/grandma, it just means she is the only maternal family figure we had left. Which meant she handled us in the way she knew, and the way she was comfortable with — which mostly meant let us figure it out for ourselves. Maybe that is why I am this way — “I will do it on my own, in my way, and do not get in my way.” I did not have much choice.

I am trying to remember how often I saw little kiddos around my grandma. I think she might have cooed a bit when she saw them. I think she smiled and warmed up a bit, but I’m not sure she got goose bumps and maternal around them. So when I saw this viral article about “What Happens When You Put a Daycare in a Nursing Home? Magic” I thought, “Would that have made her softer, happier? Would she have come out of her shell?” I learned a lot about what I would and would not do from my grandma. It was hard to know where you stood with her. Her expression of love was, well, different. This video brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes of the possibilities of love that get passed from these little ones in daycare to those in the nursing home and vice versa. It is getting made into a documentary called: “Present Perfect.”

Take me downstairs

She was my mom’s roommate at a nursing home. I loathed visiting my mom. Old ladies that either barely fit into their wheelchairs, or exploded out of them would follow me down the hallway. They would slide along moving at a snail pace, sliding their feet along as their means to get from one place to the next. It was as though I had the scent of youth and when I would come in the door they know and follow. Some of them were completely normal, and some were not quite right.

There were days I would see a group of random old ladies in my mom’s room. One would be facing the corner talking to herself, another would be sitting there staring at my mom not talking, and another would have fallen asleep mid entrance to her room. I would look at my mom and she would roll her eyes. Our unspoken angst at the situation neither of us had any control over.

Back to the roommate. She would talk in her sleep, and talk while awake. She would say things like: “Take me home.” Or “Take me downstairs.” Mind you the nursing home was one level. At first it all made me laugh, and then it just made me sad. The roommate did not have daily visitors, and when I would try to talk to her it made her cranky, and she would talk even more, in lines of gibberish that made no sense. My mom was in a nursing home because the hospital no longer had space and she needed extra care. I often wonder what it was like for her to live among those that were her mother’s age and older. She had her meals with them, did physical therapy, and activities with them. Did it drive her crazy? It was as though I watched her age during her stay at that nursing home.

I do not know what happened to her roommate, but my mom got better enough for us to move into a small apartment and in-home nurses would come and help her each day (in addition to what my sister and I would do to care for her). Thank God. I am not sure how much longer I could have watched the gaggle of old ladies congregate in my mom’s room. I might start to speak in their language. “Take me to…”