My grandma has always been a feisty character, full of piss and vinegar (though she would NEVER use that vulgar term, I’m sure). Although she is as gentle and comforting as an early summer breeze, she would also play hard, work harder, and is extremely resilient.
Now in her 92nd year, she has become old and fragile and everyone wants her to just sit down and let them take care of her. But she’s just as stubborn as always – even though her body doesn’t realistically allow for that stubbornness. The other day, she fell on the basement floor (a place she isn’t supposed to be) while washing the basement steps (a task she isn’t supposed to do). My father (among others) is understandably frustrated by it. She just keeps doing these things that she isn’t supposed to do, and now it’s cost her a broken rib.
That begs the question: what IS she supposed to do? I imagine myself in her position and wonder how I would feel. I can see a version of myself being frustrated with the invisible chains of my body and my family’s will, conspiring together to shackle me to my recliner. I see myself with two options: I could give in to them, allowing them to care for me while I sit there as a museum piece to be viewed by my family, sitting there just waiting to die, or I could stubbornly fight it and do all that I can to live while I’m alive, and washing the basement steps just to feel normal. I’d do all I could to just live normally, even if it kills me.
Then again, that’s based on an earlier version of myself. There’s another version of myself in that same circumstance that’s based on this most recent version of me* – one that has experienced enough physical hardship to be broken of the pride that turns down help and has thus earned a greater emotional adaptability. This newly imagined version of me enjoys the memories of the past, but doesn’t clutch at its elusive wisps. I imagine accepting help, sitting there the way my family wants me to, but not idly – I’ll try to think of ways to redefine myself and continue to be useful. Perhaps I’ll learn to crochet and start sending too many sweaters and blankets to my grandchildren. I’ll surely stuff the mailboxes of my Congressmen – assuming we still have Congressmen. Maybe I won’t have the dexterity for that. Then I would stuff my Congressmen’s voicemails. I’ll want my children and grandchildren to simply spend time with me, which means I’ll have to call them and explicitly invite them over – I hope I have the willpower for that. Quizá voy a aprenderé un otro idioma y practicar con mi familia. Si puedo perfeccionar esté. Or maybe I’ll have my children read the entertainment section of the Erie Times News and ask them to take me to all of the interesting events.
Although I deeply long for eternity and the perfection of the universe, I truly hope I live long enough to find out which of these imagined ladies I’ll be. I’ve been talking about my father’s mother, and my mother’s mother is 93, so I think I’ve got a good shot at making it that far.
I really do wish my grandma could be like that second woman and find a way to keep everybody – including herself – happy, but she’s still too proud. She wants so badly to be someone she isn’t. While I understand it, I do wish things were different. As for myself, I do believe I’ll be the second one, but if I happen find myself breaking ribs washing steps, I hope no one tries to stop me.
*based on real life experience as outlined in this post here: https://wordpress.com/stats/day/linnealien.wordpress.com