Nearly a year ago my grandma had a stroke that ultimately left her unable to communicate clearly and lose use of her right side. She is currently in a nursing home, and will most likely not return home.
I’ve had a year to come to terms with this. I can handle going to see her at the nursing home, and I am used to having family get togethers in a location other than Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
But a month ago I visited Grandma and Grandpa’s farm for the first time since her stroke. I went to see all the work that had been done on their house – my aunts, uncles and cousins have been helping by going through some of the papers and other things in the house and organizing it.
What I didn’t realize was how hard it was going to be to visit without my grandparents there to greet me. It was a good thing my Mom had the wisdom to send me over with my husband, because I was fighting back tears even as we were driving over there. And then the big hit when I walked through that door, and realized that my Grandma wasn’t going to be there to respond to my, “Hello!” Whenever we would come over, she would greet us with a hug, and then tell us to come out back to help feed the chickens, or look at her garden, or come into the living room so she could show us the quilt she was working on. And of course, I can’t forget that she would always have care packages to send with us when we had to leave.
As I was walking around the house, I noticed that boxes were missing from around the house, but that isn’t what struck me. To me, it pretty much looked the same. When I walked into the living room and saw the piano, I thought of the countless hours my Grandma sat with me and helped me learn to play piano. I thought of watching her at the piano, amazed at how many songs she knew from memory and how easy she made it look. And then I thought of the many Christmases that I sat and played “Linus and Lucy” for my younger cousins, who loved to dance to the song all around the living room. And we can’t forget the hours of football watched on Thanksgiving afternoon.
When I went into the sewing room, the memories of Grandma teaching me how to sew my first (and only!) comforter using material she was going to use in a square dancing dress. The upstairs made me think of all the stories she would tell me about when her kids lived up there. The kitchen, lessons on bread-making. The basement, years of family gatherings where the cousins would gather to eat.
As I left, I prayed to God that somehow I could build a family as strong as my Grandparents have over these past years. A family built on love. A family that is always nearby when you need a helping hand. A family that continues to be close for generations. A family where the beautiful memories are so strong, when you walk through the house where they were made, the house whispers back and helps you remember.