Friday, April 2, 2010

Grandmothers



Clumps of powdery green eddied in my matcha bowl. I watched steaming water engulf the bits of green, lapping the sides of the bowl with each motion of my whisk. The powder settled to the bottom, the liquor thickly green.

I sat down to tea with my bowl of matcha and a slice of sponge cake. The cake was flecked with cut-up blood oranges, squat in form but still spongy in my mouth.

The day was passing quickly, already mid-afternoon by the time I got home from visiting my nursing home patient.

As usual, she was in bed when I came into her room. It was the morning after bingo, and she was tired out. The previous evening, she was surrounded by the Monday night hubbub: the sea of familiar faces of people she's gotten to know throughout her years here, the staff weaving within the thicket of wheelchairs, distributing prizes in candy to the winners. She showed me her own stash, tucked away in a wicker basket. It sat plushly among stuffed teddy bears on her rocking chair. Mini-sized Snickers, licorice sticks, bags of M&Ms were all testament to her ability to manage four bingo cards at a time. Her basket of winnings would await her grandkids when they come to visit.




She talked of the past. Often, it's the remote past, of her life as a young woman, newly married, keeping house, eventually, with three small children. She was an enthusiastic baker, and her children enjoyed fresh batches of cookies or slices of cakes every day when they came home from school.

Today, she remembered her grandmother. My grandmother was born an orphan, she said, her father died a few weeks before her birth, and her mother died giving birth to her.

This grandmother was raised by an aunt who had 10 children of her own. Unable to take care of another child, she sent her niece - now a year old - on a steamer from Poland, bound for the States. The child arrived at her destined city where another aunt took custody of her. Here, in the Midwest, she grew up, got married, and raised her family. When she died, my own patient attended to her at this same nursing home where I have been visiting her.

There was beauty in this symmetry of interconnected lives, preserved over generations. My patient will most likely see her last moments here, surrounded by these walls, by windows overlooking the lake. Perhaps, there will be a granddaughter at her bedside, carefully propping up her many pillows, adjusting the bowed head onto the downy whiteness.

My own grandmothers are long gone. In my old bedroom at my parents', there is a china teapot in its wicker cosy, snug in its velveteen interior. This once belonged to my grandmother, a teapot she used daily. It is now mine to remember her by. I remind myself to bring it back with me the next time I visit my parents.





5 comments:

Marilyn said...

The memories are so important as we age. What a lovely teapot you have to remember by.

artandtea said...

What a lovely post. And how wonderful that you will have your grandmother's teapot to enjoy your tea in. As a teenager, I worked at the local nursing home and so enjoyed the stories the elderly residents had to share.

Marlena said...

I have my mother-in-law's and my grandmother's teapots, as well as my m-i-l's spaghetti pot, very battered but quite functional. They are love to me, theirs for me, mine for them. I use my mother's old plastic tea strainer, another piece of love. More precious than gold.

Cha sen said...

Yes, these legacies are wonderful. I wish I had more to remember my grandmothers by.

G. Rudner said...

Come back Cha Sen-where is your weekly update. My cats and I miss ya.