Last weekend, my sister and I went to visit my grandparents. They live downtown DC, only about 20 miles from my house, and yet, we only see them on holidays/birthdays/special occasions. And now, they are moving into an assisted living facility. I am actually kind of sad.
Opa is my dad's father; Oma is my dad's step-mother. They are both in their mid-80's and up until 2 weeks ago, were doing fine on their own. Sure, they had their difficulties; it takes Opa 2 hours to drive the 20 miles to my house for Christmas and Oma was just diagnosed with Alzheimer's so you are lucky if she remembers your name. But all in all, things were doing okay at their condo.
2 weeks ago, Opa fell when he was trying to pick up the newspaper from the front doormat. Oma froze and couldnt remember their neighbor---her best friend of 26 years---and refused to knock on their door for help; "It would be rude to knock on that door--I do not know those people". Opa had his cell phone in his pocket when he fell (a miracle in itself since he NEVER carries it with him!) and was able to call for help himself. As Opa said himself, "This is the event we were all waiting for!".
The assisted living facility has been chosen, the reservation deposit paid, and now comes all the paperwork. Opa avoided it and avoided it until we wouldnt let him any more. For 3 hours, we sat with him last weekend filling out forms about medical history, DNR, and all those other pleasant things to chat about on a sunny Saturday in DC. At the end of the day, I was exhausted!
It got me thinking about all the things that Opa has meant to the family. No, he and Oma were never the grandparents who got onthe floor and played with the kids and they arent the cuddly kind either. They are both very proper people. But they were always there for the big events; they never forgot a birthday (this year they forgot 2 of the adult grandkids birthdays and Opa still feels horrible).
I had some rough times a few years ago and even when I felt my immediate family turn their backs on me, Opa always reached out and told me over and over again that he was there and able/willilng/wanting to help me. I love him for that. I dont think he knows that I know he told my parents that and I dont know if I ever will tell him that I know. I neveer called on him during those times; maybe I should have. He knows we love him and it was so nice to see his aging face light up when my sister and I walked into the room. He adores Grace and Bill.
But he and Oma are both slipping away. Oma's Alzheimer's is so bad that she has almost totally disappeared. Opa's fall really aged him---a huge bruise that covers his entire left thigh. THe cancer in his spine is really hurting his back now and he is so upset that the doctor took away his favorite chair---a ratty old recliner--because he needs to be sitting straight up in a solid chair. He is so concerned with the rest of the family that he is avoiding his own needs---like getting this move together so he and Oma can be taken care of.
It has me thinking about my family. Bill and Grace are everything to me. My world gets so much clearer when its just us and I am so happy when I see all our friends surrounding us. My family lives close and while we spend time with them, I am not that close emotionally to my mother. We never had a great relationship and as I grew up, it got worse. Now that I am a mom, I understand her better but forgiveness is a tough thing to deal with for me and her. We have been able to put things aside because in the end, Grace needs her grandparents as I need mine. My father and sister and brother---I love them with all my heart and even though we had the same issues, it always blew up into crazy proportions with my mom and me. Now the issues with my Opa and Oma have made me think that the past issues arent that important anymore. I just want my family around me for as long as possible.