Monday, February 19, 2007

Reflecting

This is not about regret. I recently thought about relationships and if there are any I would regret, any I would wish I had worked harder at or reconciled. I always want to do more for my husband and children. I just get so much from George. And I don't give him nearly as much back. I take for granted that he will always be around, and I hope when the children are less helpless, I can give more to George. I hope. My children. My parents. My sisters. My grandparents. My friends. So many people to love and cherish and pour myself out for. And I am so selfish. But God is gracious to give me love for others.

I miss August. As I predicted, Amabel, being the jolly, inquisitive, and animated little girl that she is, maintains her position in the foreground always. The baby, being tiny and so needy, gets constant attention as well. And August, not minding time alone and adoring his sister beyond what words can begin to explain, usually stays pretty well out of my way. Not that him being around would be out of the way. But he had some sort of nightmare or something last night that had him screaming and inconsolable for quite a while. We ended up watching a Mickey Mouse video together at like eleven at night. The whole time I probably drove him crazy with all my kisses and squeezes, so conscious that these moments are rarer and rarer and that he, more than the girls, will not always be mine. Sure, it's twenty years or so from now, but he will take a wife someday who will and should be more dear to him than me. But not for now. For now he is mine. And already he says "I love you" less. And already he thinks hugs and kisses are the start of tickle fights. But that's okay; I'll take what I can get.

Things are going so much better with my parents. I really feel that there has been so much healing there. I know it will only get better. And my sisters, though so far as to be not even in driving distance, are dear and close, at least in spirit, all the way from Belvedere, New Jersey and Billom, France.

But my Nannie, my grandmother, is now very old. Her first husband was Daddy's father and I never even met him. I also never met Momma's mother. And Momma's father, who was very old then, died when I was nine or ten. So Nannie has been my one grandparent for most of my life. She came to visit us when we lived in Florida and would go to stay with us on trips to Disney World. Or we would go to the beach or to the zoo or to the park to feed the ducks. She always took lots of pictures and always one under the china berry tree in our yard. She loved the china berry tree. We would go all over with Nannie in Nashville too. Her second husband owned an old amusement park and she would take us to ride the rides and play the games and visit with all the other old folks that were still working from when the park was in its heyday. She had a little charcoal grill that we would take to the picnic area at the park (not Fair Park, the Warner parks in Nashville that I have mentioned before) and we would roast marshmallows and put them on peanut butter crackers. And she always had sweaters in the trunk of her car in case we got cold. She used to laugh because we thought she had everything either in her car or her purse. I remember being in disbelief when she didn't have any glue on hand. We would go to the dragon park sometimes too and she helped us climb the large mosaic dragon there. There was a checkerboard tiled on the dragon and at least once she brought checkers so we could play a game. I think she was the one who taught me to play checkers. She had a little red table with checker board painted right on it. We would play checkers at her house or dress up in her girls' old clothes (and wigs!) or play with her little dolls from all over the world. Sometimes we would set up huge tracks in the spare bedroom and played with all my uncle's old cars and trucks. Or she would let us help her in the kitchen. Once we ground up a bunch of ham in an old fashioned meat grinder for ham salad (I think?). It's funny what I remember.

I have dozens of memories like that and I mention them to George often. A few months ago, he told me I should write them down for her. I used to write to her about twice a week. She lives in a nursing home now and has lost almost all of her own memories. She doesn't seem to know us anymore, though being the polite and demure Southern Chi Omega that she is (all said with a grin, because you just have to know my Nannie!) never lets on. She just enjoys company. And I hope she has enjoyed my letters. I have not written as much since Elspeth was born. As a mother of five, I am sure she is very understanding. Momma would say she has no idea whether I'm writing or not because she doesn't even know who I am, but it is important to me. I had begun the letter with all the memories (usually I just write about the latest news) but it became pretty taxing to go through all of that when I was so conscious of the fact that she would not remember. And though she is still with us in body, in many ways she is gone.

Momma called this morning on her way to the hospital where Nannie was taken during the night last night. It is so hard to comprehend exactly what has happened, but she is on life support. Her living will is pretty particular and eliminates the possibility of her being kept alive artificially. But for now, she is being kept alive in hopes that she will respond to treatment and be able to keep herself alive in another day or so. They do not really have a lot of hope that this will be the case and are thinking a decision will be made tomorrow about turning the machines off. And so I have a headache. And a heartache. I do not even know how to pray. And I have a half written letter telling her all the happy things I remember of her that she may never get. But she was there. She thought of me before I came over and bought strawberries for strawberry shortcake because she knew it was my favorite. She thought of me when she cooked broccoli and kept a piece out for me because I don't like it cooked. She thought of me when I went to Mexico on a missions trip in high school and gave me spending money and a little pouch to keep pinned inside my clothes (so no one would steal the money, another grin for Nannie and all her worryin') and I brought her back a piece of hand painted pottery and wrote the card in Spanish- she got a kick out of that. She thought of me when I went to Ole Miss, where she had lived her best years as a Chi Omega, to be an RUF intern and had me come to visit before I left and told me all about her time there. That was not so very long ago and probably the last time she seemed completely herself to me. But she floated down the aisle in my wedding, more beautiful than even I looked, though I later found out she thought she was just going to church. She cooed over Amabel and held her as a baby, though she has only been able to admire August and Elspeth in someone else's arms. Momma always says, "And Abby made that!" showing off what the baby is wearing. Nannie says "Oh, Abby sews? She did a beautiful job." She does not know it is me sitting beside her. She cannot really think of us anymore. But I will think of her for the rest of my life.

I am not sure if she will be okay and come off the machine or if she will go in peace in the next day or so. I wanted to write before it was final, a way of working through it for myself and a way to honor her in some small way while she is still here. My only regret was that I didn't finish this one letter, but she was there, and I will see her again.

5 comments:

Courtney said...

Crying for you..... I lost my grandmother last year just before my 2nd was born. It was a catapult into "real" adulthood for me and a finished chapter of my childhood. She, too, was a refined Georgian woman and I will never forget the tapping of her fingernails on her coffee cup in the morning. Life is hard. Heaven will be so great.

lauren said...

My grandmother left us the same way 2 years ago...it's so hard when they are on life support to know how to grieve/hope. I'll be praying for you all during this time.

And thank you so much for your words about August. Liam fell asleep on the way home today at 5 o'clock. I picked him up to bring him in for dinner and he was out...like a noodle in my arms. So I ate my dinner with my left hand, cradling him with the other because I cannot remember the last time I held him while he was sound asleep. It was so sweet. I finally woke him up after we were all finished so I could hold him as long as I could.

sara said...

Sorry to hear about your grandmother, Abby. I know she is special to you. I think it is really great that you have been writing to her all of this time. Whether she remebers anything or not, I am sure that has been a blessing to her and other family members as well. I can't remember if she is your mom or dad's mom, but I am sure they feel honored by your efforts with her.

Fittsy said...

So sorry for your loss - now and when it's final. This brings back so many tears and memories of my own dear Grandparents, who are far away in heaven and on earth.

Praying for you,

Rebekah

Anonymous said...

Abby, thanks so much for those sweet memories- I loved reading them. They also reminded me of my grandmother- she lived with us for 12 years starting when I was 7 so in many ways she was like a second mother. The last 5 years of her life she suffered from severe dementia so it was really hard. She died the summer of my freshman year in college while I was away at Beach Project so I didn't get to see her- there was no notice because she died peacefully in her sleep. Anyway, it was really tough- she was very special as I know your grandmother is as well. I was just telling my mom yesterday that I have two things that remind me of her. One- she left me her simple yet beautiful engagement ring my grandad gave her (who I never met). The other thing is a pair of pink tweezers. She use to ask me to pluck her hairs from her face that had grown too long- then she would give me a quarter! What is funny is that I never seem to loose those tweezers. The other day Knox and Karis had found them and were pretending it was a "power weapon". I thought for sure they were gone but they always turn back up. Anyway, a random memory but one that will always be sweet to me- who knows maybe Karis's daughter will be plucking my hairs as well one day?! Please know that she and your family are in my prayers- keep us updated. Love you, Michelle

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