It was Jan 2003 I remember distinctly.
My kitchen ceiling fan was very dusty. I looked up almost every day and made a mental note to clean those glaring white blades with the dust screaming Clean me!!! I really was irked that there was so much that was not getting tended to in my home.
I kept reminding myself that there were way more important things than dust, like my grandmother I was nursing back to health.
Grandma lived alone by choice. She was.. And still... is a feisty, petite, well put together 86 years old at the time. She looks way better than me even on her worst day. Her nickname has become "Grandma Clinique" obviously because of all the Clinique products she uses.
Well Grandma had a heart attack a week after she buried her younger sister in November 2002 and had quadruple bypass heart surgery the day after Thanksgiving of 2002. She needed to be taken care of when she was released from the heart step down program and nobody had room for her in their homes so... My husband and I transformed our newly built family room to Grandma's apt so we could take care of her. Sounds simple and nice right???
Grannie Annie is a compulsive neat nick who lives and dies by her stomach, the TV show schedule and her rigid schedule of life. She definitely came to the wrong place at my house.
My house was and is the "Circus". We have numerous pianos, keyboards, guitars, computers, art supplies, canvases, projects, fabric etc and visitors! You get the picture.
It was months of coming downstairs and praying she was still alive and she did not die in my house! It was months of medicine trials with reactions that gleaned heart stopping scary reactions. It was months of counting meds out 3X a day, and it was months of 3 meals a day on Grandma's stomach clock and showering her with sights I never wanted to see even in horror film!
My Aunts (who "did not have room for their mother in their own homes") used to tell me I was spoiling her by making her bed and serving her 3 meals a day delivering them to her recliner. I did not realize that they had inside knowledge to the reality that I was my Grandma's personal assistant and that she took time off from life to be taken care of like the "Queen" my Grandpa made her!
As this all unfolded, I was still taking care of my 3 children, my Husband, and heavily involved with a show that I was the backstage director/costume designer for.
My Grandma and my neighbors marveled at how many times a day my red van left my driveway scurrying to fill infinite requests and chauffeuring whomever wherever while Granma designed her menu and TV schedule for the day. Unbeknownst to me, Grandma was also keeping another schedule that slowly was revealed while she was doing her sick gig by me. Remember I mentioned Grannie Annie was... and still is a neat nick, well guess what? Grannie Annie was keeping a list of what "I needed to clean" only to be revealed at her own untimely discretion.
What do I mean by untimely discretion? Well while I was on all fours cleaning up the dog urine that my bichon involuntarily gave up because of a bladder issue, my grandma decided to sit in her chair and let me know that Her dinner "that was sitting only 3 feet on the counter, prepared by me punctually at 5:00pm, hot was getting cold! And...If that was not enough ...while I was cleaning up dog urine 3 feet from her and 6 feet from "her dinner" she said firmly! "When was I going to get her dinner from the counter and WHEN WAS I GOING TO CLEAN THAT CEILING FAN” as she pointed upward in my kitchen!!!
I could NOT believe my ears!! After months and months of devoting myself to the priorities of life and Grannie Annie being "the priority numero Uno" I finally wanted to just strangle her myself!
I adjusted myself and was determined to evict Grannie Annie ASAP. I gave her a rewarmed plate and told myself that the ceiling fan might never get cleaned.
When our eyes finally met, she told me that it was time for her to go home because obviously I did not have the time to do what needed to get done and having her in my home was too much for me because my ceiling fan had been dirty since she arrived and was still dirty.
Grannie Annie sent me to the store for her the following morning. I had not made her bed yet and she was not even dressed. When I arrived home I could NOT believe my eyes, her bed was made, she was dressed and her bags were packed and at the bottom of the staircase.
I asked if my Aunts were over and helped her. Grannie Annie stared at me and simply stated it was time for her to go home and obviously she meant right then, at that moment in time.
We stared at each other with our eyes locked not blinking for what seemed like an eternity.
All of a sudden I realized that Grannie Annie had been allowing me take care of her. All of our conversations came rushing back and swirling in my head.
Grannie Annie was the oldest of 7 in her family. She was her mother's right hand. She had been a caretaker most of her life. Her control issues stemmed from having to demand organization so everything and everyone could function seamlessly. Grannie Annie had lost her mother to cancer when she herself was in her early twenties. She became sister and mother to her siblings and her own children.
While Grannie was sitting in the recliner all those months, she shared so many stories with me that I would not have otherwise known if we did not have that time together.
The story that jumped out at me the most while I was staring into my grandmothers eyes was the one about her last visit to her home by her mother my great grandmother I never met.
She had told me this event repeatedly while she sat in "the Recliner".
Her Mother had traveled the train, ferry and bus to come visit her over in Jersey. When she had arrived she found a wonderfully prepared corned beef dinner with all the trimming. My grandmother made her mom sit down and be served her like a queen. Grannie Annie said that was her only memory of her mother ever sitting down to a dinner that was cooked by someone else and also her mother allowing her daughter to serve her. That was her mother’s last good meal and the last time she ever visited Grannie Annie.
Oh my goodness, I was floored. My Grandmother had NEEDED someone else to take care of her just for a short time. She was way way overdue! Nobody had taken care of her the way she needed to be taken care of since her own mother died!
It was as if she read my mind. She finally broke the silence and said " I cannot let you take care of me any longer because I will never want to go home." I started to cry and hugged her. I told her she did not HAVE to go home. She told me she did. “She had things to do”.
I smiled at Grannie Annie and hugged her some more.