Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Little Things

Every Wednesday I visit my grandmother at an assisted living facility. The place is clean, quiet, the helpers friendly. Grandma sits in her bed all day, except for meal time and physical therapy. Usually the therapist has already done his work before I get there, but today he'd arrived shortly before I did.

Right away it was clear my being there with my little son was distracting. She wasn't concentrating and wanted to talk. Between her bedside commode and the bed, she wobbled and almost lost her balance. When the therapist suggested walking next, I considered going to wait in the other room, to give Grandma the best chance. But we were there to see her, and considering her age and what's socially correct, I decided to stay. I was visiting and she'd feel horrible if I didn't stay and continue my visit.

So, off towards the hall we went. Grandma had to sit once to take a rest. Out in the hall she had to take another. Then when she stood for the second time she struggled so hard to take that next step. Her foot shook, her hands gripped the walker until her knuckles turned white. The therapist held the strap tightly and rested a hand on her back as she began to sway to the right. She couldn't take another step, the effort too great. In that moment I became thankful for my ability to walk. A gift I don't ever really stop to think about. Every morning I get up. Sure, I have a little pain, maybe some discomfort from sleeping wrong, but I don't have to pay it any mind. I walk to the bathroom without fear of falling or not making it in time. These are luxuries my grandmother has lost. Since when did walking become a luxury? When all the effort in the world wasn't required to take just one step.

After her therapy concluded, a shorter session since her strength just wasn't there today, we went outside to visit. The weather right now is amazing, and our outdoor visits are my favorite. On the way out, a friend of hers approaches. My grandmother introduces her as Beatrice. The elderly, chipper woman gives me a warm hug and notices the munchkin running loose. Enthralled with my little boy, Beatrice follows us outside, all the while asking questions. How old is he, where did he get those cute curls, what's his name? With a smile I answer, she repeats each time, returning my smile.

Grandma and I take our seats and I try to include Beatrice in our conversation, but its clear no matter how loud I speak, she can't hear me. After a few more minutes, she heads inside. Feeling a little guilty, I re-direct my attention back to Grandma. Over the noise of the street, it's hard to hear her, but I can tell by the infliction in her voice what tone I need to take in my replies. Horrible, I know, but I can't ask her to repeat everything...

We go in after a half hour. Beatrice and another woman are sitting in the communal living area watching TV. Spotting Joseph, Beatrice brightens. She asks me his name. I figure she forgot, its hard to remember names. Then she asks me how old he is. She stands, and walks to him reaching for his head, and inquires about his curls. Sadness fills me, Beatrice doesn't remember anything of our conversation outside. I don't even know if she remembers outside. I answer her questions as though we never talked and take Grandma back to her room. As I leave, Beatrice and I have the same conversation for the third time, and most likely not the last. Another blessing to count, my memory. While not the best, I will remember Beatrice the next time I see her, though she won't recall me or my son.

Visiting Grandma is usually an average affair, I do it every week. This week, turned out to be a day I could enjoy AND count my many blessing in life. The little things like being able to walk, remember, speak clearly and hear. Don't forget to count yours today, to notice what you have that others no longer do, or maybe never did. You may be surprised.



  1. We often forget our blessings as they get lost under all the crud. Great reminder post.