I believe in grandparents

image: © istockphoto.com/JJRD

I think most of us can look over our life and see one or two people who made a lasting impression on us….maybe even served as an inspiration. For me, this was my grandparents.

As a child, I watched as my Grandpa and Grandma took care of their own parents over the years. At first it was the small things….mowing their yard or preparing a meal; but as my great-grandparents health deteriorated and they were no longer able to care for themselves, it became so much more.

I essentially watched as the tables turned, and the child became the parent.

I saw my grandpa help his dad to and from the bathroom and then get him situated in his bed. When my great-grandma fell ill to cancer, arrangements were made to bring a hospital bed into her house. The room they set her up in had a large picture window overlooking the backyard. My great-grandma could look out and see a few of the trees in her orchard, beyond the old chicken coop. If she felt like it, she could also watch the grandchildren playing on a large, but droopy tree that was perfect for even the younger kids to climb on.

I often listened as my grandpa and grandma talked amongst themselves every day, making plans for who would be watching over my great-grandparents. This left a lasting impression. I watched as they sacrificed of their own time and energy, each taking a turn to care for their parents. Eventually they had to arrange for other family members to come and help. Later, it came to the point where around the clock care was needed, so a couple special ladies outside the family were brought in to help.

I am close to my grandparents … always have been. I was close to my great-grandma too. She was the kind of sweet lady everyone knew as “Grandma Kirby”. I spent many summer afternoons swinging with her on her front porch swing. She listened to me when no one else had the time or patience. She helped me make those ridiculous potholders where you weave the pieces of material together! When I was really small, I used to climb up onto her lap as she sat in the rocking chair and she’d sing to me in her off-key voice….oh what I wouldn’t give to hear that off-key voice again!

When my Great-Grandma Kirby died, I cried, and cried, and cried. In all seriousness, over a year had passed before I was able to think about her or talk about her without my eyes welling up with tears. Even now as I think back, my heart aches for her. I always knew I wanted to find a way to honor her memory and to simply make her proud.

A few years ago, I began volunteering with a Hospice group. That turned into 5 ½ years of service to patients and families going through similar situations to what my family had gone through years before. Now, 21 years after her death, I am going back to school and in doing so hope to honor my Great-Grandma’s memory by becoming a nurse….probably a Hospice nurse.

I believe in grandparents, and in them leaving a lasting impression on their grandchildren, perhaps even inspiring them to do extraordinary things with their life!

“I Believe in Grandparents,” Copyright © 2009 by Leah Watkinson. Part of the This I Believe Essay Collection found at www.thisibelieve.org, Copyright © 2005-2009, This I Believe, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

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