When I was an undergraduate, not so very long ago, I proposed to my family this: we should visit my paternal grandparents one holiday and my maternal ones the next. Our own family had become fractured, what with me in Minnesota, and eventually, my sister moved out to go college hopping herself (Madison to New York City to Austin).
We managed to get to Chattanooga that year, but I haven't been back in years now, not since Yvonne was in the hospital. But Thanksgiving has always been reserved for my father's parents in Michigan; I don't know if I have missed one in the past half decade. Husband accompanied us this year, which was lovely, though I wished my sister could have been there too. I miss that kid (who isn't a kid any more).
Inspired by a sweet blog post, reminded of those little books I made when I was an elementary school kid, I put together the book you see unfolding here. I cut pages from magazines, pasted them in, and after I took these pictures, I wrote my grandmother a letter, telling her how much I respect her, admire her, and how I hope the good things we do in our lives honor her.
And grandpa. I know this year is a tough one for her, that its ending is not a relief because 2008 will be still harder. My grandfather is not entirely in good shape; he has settled into his new home, but he is clearly out of sorts, and there is hope that will not be realized. Alzheimer's is terrible for many reasons and one of them is that hope cannot buoy up those left behind--with cancer, there is chemotherapy; with an accident, there is physical therapy. There is always hope somewhere, but for now, there is no hope with Alzheimer's, only patience as the decline continues.
So what am I thankful for this year? After all, this holiday is about giving thanks. I am glad to come from such a family that has people like my grandparents in it. They are such good, honest people. I'm thankful to have my husband, who is so wonderful, and to now be connected to his family, who are also delightful people. I am thankful for my friends, whose love is so deep and so wide. I'm thankful to have not just one sister, but two, a second whose friendship has connected us in this way. I'm thankful for the things I love to do--reading, taking pictures, going for walks with the dogs, writing poetry, creating.
My grandfather's descent is certainly a tragedy, something that makes our hearts ache. But this is what I think of too: he has had such a good life too. He has two sons who are devoted to their parents. He was a much admired professor. He lived in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife on a lake, where he could swim and make his way around in his boat. He read many mysteries, watched many football games, and traveled extensively. He has four grandchildren who love him deeply (one of which, my sister, mailed him a little Christmas tree and ornaments, which was absolutely the sweetest thing in the world). He is loved, still, and he knows that. When we (my father, grandmother, husband, and myself) left him today, he told my grandmother, "I love everyone in that group. Just not equally."
3 hours ago