“Do not deprive me of my age. I have earned it.” ― May Sarton
As any elderly person, my grandmother has a thousand stories to tell. Growing up in World War II Germany, having to work as a maid at age 14 for a Jewish family after the war where she learnt what compassion is, getting married at age 21, three kids, a lot of grandchildren.
At age 86, she is the oldest person to be alive in my family and most certainly I would have deemed her the wisest. She is the best baker I know, a loudmouth at times, not afraid to voice her opinion.
She might sleep during long conversations, then wakes up and continues her advice, looking like the caterpillar of Alice’s Adventures (sans hookah).
She is the woman who gave up her dreams of being an artist when marrying my grandfather and the one person in the room that will support your crazy ideas, even if she doesn’t understand why you’re doing this.
A lifetime of devotion for other people’s happiness, a characteristic I see in my Dad and, to some extent, in myself. Blue eyes that gleam with compassion for all of the problems of mankind. She may never understand, in her lifetime, why I am a vegetarian though, but she accepts it as long as she can make sure that I am eating enough.
Now she isn’t in her apartment, sitting in her wheelchair by the old wooden table. Painting, her aged hands slower than some years ago, but steadily colouring the paper.
She is being examined in the hospital, a place I don’t vist anymore unless you drag me there. And I am cleaning her apartment, as I do every weekend. Sometimes I am annoyed by the wheelchair taking up so much space that it is impossible to get the floor clean. Sometimes I am annoyed by listening to the same stories for the 100th time because her memory starts to fade away. Sometimes I wish she wouldn’t sleep away her days so much because I am afraid she won’t wake up again.
Now she isn’t here, and it feels wrong. I can clean her space without interruption and this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. My cheeks blush with embarrassment having these thoughts.
If you still have grandparents, go visit them. Eat their dry cakes because the put a lot of effort into their making. Listen to everything they say because they are wise.
She is a queen of the old days, and she is strong. No matter how she will get through this, it’s us that are standing by her side. We won’t deprive her of days she has yet to live, stories she has yet to tell. Because she has earned this and many, many things more.