“She likes to be alone. She appreciates visitors, but only for a few minutes.”
“She says the funniest things.”
“She wants what she wants when she wants it.”
“She tends to resist certain activities, but once she gets going, she seems to enjoy herself.”
These are comments statements made to me by those who are caring for my Grandmother . Each time I hear such a statement I have one of three reactions:
1. Wow, that sounds just like me.
2. Wow, that sounds just like me, but I wish it didn’t.
3. Wow, I hope that sounds like me.
In my family, “being like Grandma” is not something to which to aspire. In fact, “You sound just like Grandma,” is not a compliment…it’s a barb. And yes, I’ve said it too.
In the past couple of months I’ve had the opportunity to see my Grandmother through the eyes of people who don’t know her very well, but who are getting to know her better. And I am getting to know her better, too. I’ve spent more time with her (and her stuff) recently, than I have in the past five years combined (she doesn’t like visitors, remember?).
It’s been an uncomfortable experience because I’ve been so invested in seeing her only one way, to the point that even when someone says something nice about her, my first reaction is to want to refute it. And boy does that feel ugly.
As I get to know her better, on a different level (and as the person responsible for her), without family filters, and having extended some grace both to her and to myself , I am seeing that yes, she has some positive traits and there are ways I am like her, both positive and negative. I am figuring out how to be okay with that.
For example, as I’ve been going through her things I have found diaries and journals, going back years and years. I haven’t read them in detail and probably won’t, but from the little I saw, she liked to make notes and observations. She loved inspirational quotes. She spent time wondering about the meaning of life. I am sure that if Facebook and blogs has existed in her day, she’d be right there, sharing her thoughts with anyone who’d care to read.
Her way of sharing was to clip articles and send them to people with a note. I know that I and other family members found it annoying…as if she were trying to fix us. Hmmmmm…
And then there’s her anxiety, which takes the form of resistance, anger, manipulation, and other annoying behaviors. As such, my Grandmother wasn’t very Grandmotherly I used to think it was because she didn’t like kids, and the noise and chaos that comes with them. But now I see that she was overwhelmed and didn’t know how to handle it.
I have anxiety too. Until now, I thought I had gotten it from my father, who tended to be passive and to avoid any an all situations that might make it worse. But he was also eminently likeable. And great with kids.
And so here I am: sometimes resistant, angry, manipulative, and annoying. And sometimes passive and avoiding. And sometimes likeable. Good with kids, but also overwhelmed by them sometimes. Among other things that have gotten passed down through the gene pool.
But most of all, I am grateful to be seeing my grandmother through different eyes. Eyes that can relate.