Sunday, August 29, 2004

Like turning back a tide

Grandmother's House by Deirdre Flint ( )

Grandma's Hands by Jen Cohen

It really doesn't matter that it's the right thing to do. It doesn't change anything to know that she's made the decision for herself and that she's made a deal to do it on the best terms possible. Strangely it doesn't even matter that she needed to go and that she's safer now.

It still hurts to see her there and to hear her talk about the things she misses about her old life.

She lived for 39 years in the same apartment. She was already 55 when she moved in there. It was 4 years before I was born. She'd lived my life and already made almost all the decisions that I'm wrestling with now and moved on to a point past them.

It's possible that for her this move is just a new section of life. She had to have had at least a couple of those before she ended up in the apartment where I knew her first. But for me, this has been her whole life and mine too.

That sounds selfish, I suppose, but it's really only a matter of perspective. If you haven't seen anything else, it is at the very least difficult to imagine a different view.

I went home this weekend to take in the view. It's mostly quite nice. Peaceful, pretty, comforting on some basic, logical levels. But it competes with a view that was spectacular, that sustained a beauty over the course of over 35 years that shaped my life.

I believe that one's commitment to those you aren't related to can be, and quite often is, as strong as your commitment to those who share a family bond. I believe it because I have seen it happen. Someone showed me that sometimes you choose people and you do not let them go. You teach them piano, you cook them chicken pie or American Chop Suey, you drive them to the beach, you walk them up and down the street, you brush their cats and feed their dogs and display pictures of their children and send them money and a million other little things. You don't do any of this because you've been told you have to, you do it because you love them and they love you back in their own quite different, and usually flawed, ways.

My grandmother, who isn't my grandmother, moved into a nursing home 2 weeks ago, just a few days shy of her 94th birthday. It's a nice place. It's the place she chose and they like her there. Why wouldn't they? I went home yesterday to see her, to lay eyes on this new life for her first hand. It's the right choice and she's doing well and I've seen that with my own eyes. My brother, who isn't my brother, said that we should all just let her make her own decision, she'd make the right one. And she did. She usually does. And maddeningly, somehow, he was right, I knew he would be.

It's petulant but also honest of me to say so but I still don't like it.

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