Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Living With Grandma

Grandma moved in with us March 31, 2006. She is 83. Pap died in April of 1990, and she lived alone after his death, until she came here. Gram is in excellent health for her age. She does have scoliosis, arthritis, and osteoporosis, but all in all, she's very healthy. Her mind is still very sharp. Grandma's biggest complaints are that her back hurts, and she swells when it is too warm or humid.

Gram wasn't getting any younger, and with her back hurting, it was getting harder for her to take care of an entire house by herself. She lived several hours away from her children.

I've always enjoyed Grandma. I spent entire summers with her as I was growing up. She was firm, but loving. After we married, and Pap died, Grandma would come to our house for a week long stay at least once a year. She loved to play games and help with supper. She enjoyed the children, and their escapades.

Verne and I were concerned, and asked her to move in with us. Verne added on a room for her, complete with her own bathroom. The girls and I went to pack her up several weeks before the move so that she wouldn't have to do any heavy work.

Living with Grandma is different than what I had expected. The entire family loves having her here, and Verne and I often discuss what a good decision it was to bring her into our home.

Upon her arrival, Grandma told me that she didn't want to impose on my evenings with Verne and that she would probably stay in her room after supper. That was fine, and we really did appreciate the time to ourselves. Because we homeschool, I am busy for much of the day. That too was fine because Gram watches her "stories."

When the children finished their school for the day, they would ask Grandma to play cards, Scrabble, Yahtzee, etc. At first she did so, but then she started to say no, because it was too difficult for her to sit at the table. So, she would sit in her room or on the porch and read.

Grandma was a Walker Texas Ranger fan, and the children would gather in her room in the evenings to watch with her. She seemed to really enjoy this. She would kid them about selling tickets to the show. After a while, she started to tell them that she had seen all of the episodes, and she didn't like to watch reruns. She chose to watch movies on Lifetime that really were not suitable for the children, so they stopped gathering in her room. She watches the same movies over and over again. Collin does occasionally watch baseball with her, but he really isn't interested. He does it to be kind.

Gram often complains that things slip her mind because she doesn't have conversation enough. I bite my tongue, because she is choosing to sit alone. She very rarely spends time in our living room. Even when we specifically ask her to come watch a movie with us, she declines. She says our TV is too small, and she isn't comfortable sitting on our furniture. We have the chair in there that she sat in for years.

Now, I know that Gram is getting old. I know that I need to be patient. And truly, I feel that I am. I breath prayers heavenward all day long. I want to show my grandmother the respect that she deserves. I love her with all of my heart. I want her to be comfortable, and to feel like our home is her home.

The difficulty is that I am a woman. God created me to be Verne's helpmeet. I like my home to be orderly, but I also don't mind a bit of a mess for sewing, etc. I have a certain way of cooking, disciplining my children, etc. It's hard to have another woman looking over my shoulder questioning the way that I do things.

Although Grandma's mind is still good, I notice that she is becoming more child-like. She keeps track of everything that is eaten at the table. She is concerned that she might not get her "share". The cute thing is that Grandma insists that she does not like sweets, but she counts every cookie that the children take. She'll make comments like, "I need to cut back on my portions, and stop eating sweets." That being said, she is an adult, and can choose if she wants to eat something or not. Not wanting to withhold anything from her, we will ask her if she would like a piece of dessert. She exclaims, "Of course I want some dessert! If I don't get it now, there won't be any left." The children simply grin at us.

Grandma has never done any handwork in her life. She was an excellent homemaker, and cook, but then she would sit and watch her soaps. I like to be creative. I love to sew, quilt, cross-stitch, etc. When Grandma sees me working on something she asks, "What are you making now?" It's the tone of her voice when she says it. As if I am wasting my time. I want to teach my girls to keep themselves busy by making things for their homes. Modest clothing is hard to find today, and I want them to be able to sew for their families. I want them to be homemakers, not housekeepers. Gram doesn't want to come and sit with me while I work, but maybe she wishes that I would sit in her room with her. Perhaps she sees my handwork as taking up my time. Truthfully though, I'm usually working on projects while she is watching soap operas.

When Grandma lived alone, her sons would visit every few months. She would spend two months with one of her daughters in North Carolina. She would spend a few weeks with my mom at Christmas. Then, she'd go to my uncle's for a week. She has been here for a year and a half. My one uncle did take her for several weeks last September, and is taking her for a week again this year. My other uncle has seen her once. My aunt saw her when we travelled to NC for vacation. We spent one night at their home, and then stopped and ate lunch with them on the way back home. My parents have visited once, and we went to see them once. I think that Grandma is feeling forgotten. Her children call, but she really has not seen much of them since coming here.

So, as far as yesterday's comment, I know that I need to let it roll off of my back. I'm not skinny, but I'm not obese. (And Grandma is much larger than I am.) My husband is happy with my figure. I need to remember to be patient with Grandma, just as I would with a child. We tend to say hurtful things to the people that we know love us, and will forgive us. Just as a child gets frustrated and throws a tantrum, so does Grandma. This is Grandma's home, and I wouldn't have it any other way.


Anonymous said...

What a lovely post, Tracy. Having your grandmother live with your family is wonderful but involves obvious challenges. I think there's a point in life when one *does* become the child again which makes for frustration and difficulties and uncomfortable situations. Bless you for continuing to do what God desires, for your family and for her.

Perhaps you could put together a simple letter for the extended family members, suggesting they determine days to call her, and specific times to either visit or have her stay with them t/o the year. This would not only offer your grandmother something more to look forward to such as a change of scenery, but it would award you and your immediate family time together.

My mother lived with us for 6 months (a couple years back), so I understand a bit of what you're experiencing.

Bless you.

Anna S said...

I can imagine it's not easy for you, Tracy. My Grandma, at 91 years old, is difficult sometimes. For example today, when I go to the grocery store, she was displeased with the way I 'spend money', even though I'm very frugal and most of our food is cooked from scratch using basic products. Sometimes I lose my patience. But I'm trying really hard.

Christy said...

I am so sorry that you were hurt yesterday. You are such a beautiful person, inside and out. Your children are beautiful, your husband is an awesome man-you are so blessed.

I love reading your blog because you encourage me to be more than just a housekeeper-you inspire me to go above and beyond and enjoy my day, not merely trudge through it.

You are doing an incredible thing for your grandmother-you are not only taking care of her and honoring her, you are teaching your children to do the same. You are teaching them to be unselfish and to love unconditionally-no matter what. That is such a valuable, precious lesson. You are also giving them the gift of family, having these years with their grandmother is time that they will always remember. I am very impressed with the maturity that they are exhibiting and how patient they are with her.

I took care of my grandmother for a year when she was terminally ill. She went from a vibrant, loving person to bitter and angry. She was afraid, in pain, and her mind began to slip. It was so hard to handle her childishness, her selfish behavior, and her hurtful words. I understand how you feel!

The only advice I have for you is what you already know-pray, pray, pray. Haus Frau had a good idea about contacting the other family and letting them know that you think she is lonely.

I know you said her mind is still sharp, but personality changes are the first indication that her mind is slipping. This is probably a large part of the problem.

She probably also feels like an intrusion and an inconvienence. I bet her pride has taken a huge hit because she has gone from being independent and having her own life to living and depending on your family.

I am sorry I rambled so much! I hope this made sense :)

Patrick & Rachel said...

You know, as I read this post, it reminded me of my dear Grandma - I loved her so much!!! When I took care of her alone for a weekend when I was 18 (I had to give her insulin injections and periodically prick her finger - YIKES), I remember her resting while her "soaps" were playing in the background. After sitting in the other room for a while, I came back to check on her. She asked me what was wrong, did I not want to spend time with her??? I was shocked. I guess for an older person they want you in their space and just being present is enough for them. Boy, it would be so much easier if they would just shut off the tv and socialize or something, but perhaps that takes too much energy.
Tracy, you are amazing to have her live in your home. It is hard as a woman to have another woman constantly present. Remember there is a reward - maybe not always here but definitely in heaven!!!!

Sharon said...

Your heart is in the right place Tracy. Just keep looking to the Lord during those trying times.

Sheri said...

Tracy, thank you so much for sharing your heart and this post about Grandma. I will be praying for your family as I'm sure like you mentioned, there are plenty of great days and some hard ones too... I could really understand where you are coming from because my grandma Ethel lived with us from the time I was 14-years-old till well after I graduated from high school.

There were times this was a GREAT blessing and other times it was more difficult. Grandma got very needy and felt like she should be the center of attention. This was especially hard for me to understand as a young lady. The older I've gotten though, the more I look back with fond memories of our time with Grammy. Today, she is one of my best friends and mentors and I absolutely cherish the times she comes to visit me and her great-grandbabies.

As a young person, when I would get frustrated that I had to share something with Grammy, my mom would say, "Sheri, just think, if we were Europeans, we might have several generations living under one roof!" Hee. Hee. And seriously say, "Grammy is teaching you to have a servants heart and the attitude of Jesus." Very true Mom!

Jen in MS said...

Hey Tracy,
Thank you for sharing this post about Grandma. While I have no experience in this department, I do enjoy gaining insight in this way. You are really an amazing woman....truly. I have so much respect for you as a mother, as a wife and helpmate to Verne, as a caretaker of your grandmother, as a homemaker, sewer, blogger...... God has given you many gifts and you are beautiful. It's no easy feat what you do on a daily basis!

By the way, I did start my blog back today!


Jennifer said...

Awww. Hugs to you!

I'm praying for you and the challenges that have come with having an elderly loved one in your home. I'm sure even though it feels as though your Grandma isn't very appreciative, she really does enjoy being around your family.

You are so right, when people get older they do regress into childlike actions. It's so unfortunate, but just apart of life.

I have been dealing with this very issue with my Granny over the past few months. In short, she basically has been lying about me to the rest of the family. Like a child wanting to get her way. This hurt so much, but as I pray about it (b/c it still hurts sometimes), it's like God just answers back, "don't worry, remember the 'good times', treat her with the respect and love her through it all."

I'm sure her harsh words were painful regarding your beautiful new blouse. It may be hard, but let it go. Even level headed loved ones say really inappropriate things sometimes. I know from personal experience that anything said about your weight hurts twice as much when it comes from a loved one. I hope you will continue to make your cute peasant shirt, as I know you will look GREAT in it!

One more thing in my ramblings... I really appreciate your comment about being a "Homemaker" instead of just a "Housekeeper". I too love to be 'creative' as you put it with crafts and making our house our Home. You are such an inspiration, and I appreciate you blogging about it give me even more incentive to LIVE everyday enjoying it.

I'll be praying for you!

Penless Thoughts said...

My mother lived with us the last years of her life. It is a choice and a decision that we have never been sorry for and are glad we did. I am so glad that you are open enough to speak out about the flustration at times here on your blog and know that you will receive nothing but encouragement and support. We all have various issues that we deal with and it's so nice to be able to feel the love and support of others.

Betty said...

Tracy, don't feel guilty about fortunate for your grandmother to have the opportunity to live with you and your mother lived with us and I know about another woman being in the house plus I lived next door to my mother in law. We never had any problems and when she passed away it was like losing a brothers and sister didn't participate much in helping with our mother and that was there loss. I was the youngest by 14 years to the sibling next to me.

All of their children were grown and gone from home but ours were still at home...anyway enough of me.....

You just do the best you can for you, your family and your grandmother....God bless...Betty

Please come again.....

Angie said...

What you are doing is an awesome thing. As you already know, it will have it's "days". But you and your girls will be blessed.
I wanted my grandmother to live with me when she had to have someone, but my Uncles put her in a nursing home (after they tried it a bit with a home sitter). It saddened me greatly. I cried a lot. I took my girls to see her 2 to 3 times a week. My girls were young, I sewed a lot and would take my patterns and cut them out while we visited. My granny was an incredible seamstress. She was a great cook and loved to fish! It broke her heart when her stroke caused her to be unable to do anything that she loved anymore. She could still read though and enjoyed reading her Bible. There came that time though when she could no longer read. When she hardly recognized us anymore.
The Lord woke me from a dream several years ago and said clearly to my heart- go see about granny. I did. I worked at the high school then and went into work and took care of all the details for the morning and left for the nursing home.
I read to her (she was unresponsive for most of the visit) and then prayed for her. She wept. I fixed her hair and washed her face. I loved on her and then left her with Jesus. She went home to be with him just a few days after that.
I am so thankful that I obeyed the Lord that day. I have something to cherish that my Uncles nor any cousin has. I have precious memories tucked away that I bring out and thank God for (at times like this).
Thank you for this marvelous post. You are doing an awesome thing. May God bless your life daily as you continue to show your daughters how to love---even when things are tough.
Blessings to you Tracy.

Candy said...

Hi Tracy,
I thought this was such a nice post. I agree with what Sharon said :)


Anonymous said...

You have a lovely spirit Tracy and obviously have a great deal of maturity too. I do realize that you're in your 30's but age is not equal to maturity.
I personally have a hard time having my own mother visit-and although I would open my home to her if the need ever arose, I know it would be very difficult. Primarily for the reasons you have mentioned about your grandmother. My mom has never been creative and although she has always worked, she retired a couple of years ago and now is happy to do nothing but watch tv. I'm like you-I want to be creative and if it means having thread on the floor or that we go a day without washing a load of laundry, so be it. We don't live in a pig pen just because I don't do things the way my mom did.
Anyway, I know for certain that you are going to be blessed for having your grandmother live with you-yes, it may be difficult at times, but you won't ever regret it.
Many blessings to you,

Betty said...

Tracy, I've tagged you for Eight Random Things About's on my post today....hope you'll participate....Betty

Mrs.B said...

Oh Tracy,

That was a lovely post. I can just imagine how hurtful her comment was and your attitude is just fabulous. Good for you doing the right thing by allowing her to live with your family.--I'm sure it's not always easy.

Also, I don't think it's wrong for you to kindly and quietly tell her that she hurt your feelings with her careless remark. It may not do any good but it may cause her to think.

Blessings and Hugs!

Randi said...

I love this post, Tracy! Even though it can be a struggle, I think that your home is a wonderful place for you grandma. What a blessing for both of you. Hang in there when her comments hurt you. They probably stem from her age and possible sadness rather than from malice.

My grandma always listened to 'stories' too, but hers were on the radio. I used to spend the night at her house and sleep on her floor and we listened every night. they were always mysteries.

Ruth said...

{{BIG HUG!!}} Tracy. I have no experience in this realm, but I think you are awesome for including her in your home. I can tell it is difficult now, but yet you love her. I do hope her children will become more involved. That would help both of you. Blessings to you!! You all are awesome!

Lori said...

I agree what a great thing you are doing by having your grandma live with you. It sounds like there have been many great times. I'm sure it is hard though having someone always watching over your shoulder and giving your advice or comments that you may not want to hear.

Why is it that we as family members say things that hurt each other....I think you hit it on the nail...that they will love us anyway.

I will remember you and your family in our prayers.

sedaschoolroom said...

Dear Tracy; I know that is a bit trying when you have a family member hurt you by a passing remark. But I am also quite proud of you for not "obsessing" and instead choose to be kind in return. The Lord sees all. He sees the struggle it is to live with your grandmother but He is filling you with kindness and overall love for her - in these her later years. Continue to seek Him and resting in His peace. Blessings! Maria S.

VAIL said...

I can sympathize with you on the grandmother thing. Though my 82 year old grandmother still lives on her own, she always says she doesn't like something that I know she likes. Perhaps calling her other family and encouraging them to visit would be good for her?

I think it's great you sew. I wish I knew how. I was never taught, and at this point in my life, not sure I have the patience to learn. But I agree, it is hard to find cute, modest clothes for my daughter.

USAincognito said...

Having an aging grandparent move in is definitely not an easy situation for either party. Just from what I read in this post, it does sound like she may be suffering from depression, as well. This is very common in elderly women who have lost their husbands. (I used to work as a counselor for years before I switched over to law enforcement.) I will pray for you and your family as you continue to care for her!

Lyndy said...

What you are doing is great. My grandmother lived with us until her death and now my Mother is with me. I don't regret any of it but it is very hard at times.

Praying for you.


Jodi said...

I lost my comment on this post, so I'll go again. :o)

Dearest Tracy -

Of course, thoughtless remarks can be (and obviously are) overlooked but sting nonetheless. I can never control the tears rushing to my eyes in such circumstances. *sigh* Then I hate that the speaker of harshness might see my tears.

I just wanted to give you a hug and tell you - you're doing the right thing. Something you know, but sometimes it nice to hear.

(I would also be all for contacting family members and *encouraging* them to be as involved as possible. Loved ones' days on earth are always dwindling in number ... never increasing! A good reminder to myself!!)

I hope you are having a sweet weekend!