When I was a young girl, I can't remember how old, my mom used to send us to stay with my grandmother for a week or two every summer. She lived in Snohomish in a house that, as a small child, I have very fond memories. And that as an adult didn't match up with reality. Everything was bigger, more fun, more exciting than I think it really was but from my perspective it was a treat to get to stay with her and I loved it and looked forward to it every summer.
From my perspective as a small child the house was huge, the yard even bigger, with a garden that seemed to go on for miles. There were cages in the yard with cute fuzzy bunnies. I didn't want to think about what happened to the "pets", especially when we had rabbit for dinner. I can remember running up and down the rows of vegetables in the sunshine and thinking how lucky I was that my grandma lived on a "farm". Little did I know that returning as an adult I viewed it very differently realizing it was just a large lot on a normal street!
I was in awe of my aunts who weren't that much older than me as they took me and my sister on adventures picking blackberries, running through fields in the neighborhoods, and buying penny candy from the store on the corner. I was fascinated with the oldest of my aunts who was in high school and getting ready to go to college. I thought she was so grown up and I always wanted to be in her room looking at all of her exciting knick knacks, jewelry, and clothes.
There was a laundry chute in the bathroom that went to the basement and us kids would take turns sliding down it running back up the basement stairs to do it again and again. The house smelled like sawdust as my grandpa always had it delivered to heat the house. And I remember huge thunder storms and my sister and I would get into bed with grandma as we were terrified of the loud booms. My grandmother make jelly with the berries we had picked. And she canned beans and other vegetables too. Sunday dinner was always delicious as she was a very good cook. It was an innocent and lovely time in my life.
As an adult I tried to stay connected with my grandmother as much as possible. She eventually moved to smaller houses, still staying in Snohomish, and they were always comfortable and welcoming. I enjoyed her cooking up until the end. I would try and visit her as often as possible even though I lived in Seattle and was a busy single parent. Several years later my hairdresser married and moved to Snohomish so I had regular visits with grandma every 6 weeks on the dot!
I would time my hair appointments so that I could go and have lunch with her and have a good cozy visit for the afternoon. I would help her with chores and we would chat about all kinds of things Sometimes my daughter would be with me and sometimes it was just the two of us. I cherish those visits in my heart and will never forget them.
But looking backwards, yes I know I said I wouldn't, I wish I had not been so self-involved. I wish I had asked her more about her history and life and talked less about my problems and life. I wish I had listened to her wisdom and advice and not fretted so much about small things which in the grand scheme of things weren't really that important. What was important was my relationship with her and how much she meant to me.
My grandmother lived on her own until she was 94. She drove until she was 93. We think something might have happened to make her stop driving but none of us really knew for sure. She had a gentleman friend who she went to lunch with until he passed away at 92 and a circle of church friends who watched out for her.
The family moved her into an assisted living home when she was 94 that was closer to where I and one of my aunts lived. It was such a luxury to be able to visit whenever I wanted. She loved to invite me to dinner and we would sit in the dining room and chat and then go upstairs to her apartment and visit like we used to. But I don't think she ever got over missing her home and her things and being able to sit in her dining room and look out over the little lake that she lived near. She only lasted a few months at the assisted living facility before she passed away. I have no regrets about the time I spent with her over the years but do have regrets about not knowing more about her life. Or asking her who everyone was in all the pictures in her albums. Or about her trips. We joke that all she ever talked about regarding her trips was all the meals she ate but she must have had wonderful adventures and most of them came in her 60's and beyond!
Cherish your elders. The have such wisdom of life, love, and loss. They have seen so much, done so much, lived amazing lives, and it's our job to discover what they have to share. Otherwise it can be too late and we will never know. My grandmother absolutely knew the meaning of joylicious and I miss her every day!