I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be 80 years old and a widow with a failing memory – nothing to live for and nothing to look forward to except perhaps the next time her grandson brings her a hamburger for lunch. I must visit her more often.
Today, I brought my 80-year old widowed grandmother lunch. Every time I see her, I feel the tug on my heart strings. She is so lonely, but too weak and afraid to overcome that loneliness by getting out there and living life. With a lack of exercise and a lack of challenges, and too much TV, her mind is fading away. She might repeat herself 3 or 4 times in a conversation. But today, I asked her about her younger years and those memories, it seems, have been well preserved to be recalled with crystal clarity.
She was 17 when she met my grandfather, Lennie. She was going with another boy, Freddie, at the time, but when Lennie came along, he stole her heart. He had just gotten out of the Navy and took a job with Texas Utilities. He would take her out to a Hamburger dinner on Saturdays or take her to the fair when it came around. After a month, they were engaged. In three, they were married. She was 17 and he was 19. Two years later, in 1950, my dad came along. They built their own beautiful 3 bedroom house in Graham Texas. 30 years later, Lennie died of a heart attack before I was born. Ever since then, my Nanna’s world has steadily shrunk smaller and smaller. Today she only ventures out to Fred’s and to the gas station.
She is extremely fastidious about having a clean house. As a kid, I never could understand why she was such a neat-freak, but I realized the reason why a couple of years ago as I lived by myself for several months. I was in an uncomfortable transition from college life to real life – working all day at a job with no friends and coming home to an empty house. I would often go 4 or 5 days without ever talking to a friend or anyone who cared about me. I was extremely lonely in my apartment by myself and the only way to make my lonely apartment tolerable was to have it completely clean and orderly. With the strain of loneliness upon the soul, messiness would have been too much stress to bear, but cleaning house was a sort of therapy to drive away the loneliness and bring some light and life into my humble abode. So at last I understood why cleaning house was a religion to my widowed Nanna. Without a clean house, the loneliness would have been unbearable.
I must make it my mission in the twilight years of her life, to make them pass as comfortably as possible. I’m one of the few people who can bring love and joy into her life, so I have a responsibility to bring it as often as possible. I love you Nanna!