Go See Your Grandparents
They are your history alive.
My Italian grandparents are 84. They're from another world, and a different time. Both of which don'y exist anymore. They had their honeymoon in the mountains of Italy, at my Nonna's sister farm. She said it was the best two weeks of her life.
They have been married 64 years. They have 4 children. 11 grandkids. 2 great-grandkids. And like any family, they have seen their share of sadness and bullshit. They immigrated here in 1957, and worked from literally nothing to having a beautiful family of successful children.
They're from a time where family is what mattered. Even if you fought, or saw differently, they were your family. That was the end of it.
I live with them now. I have been here 3 years. And let me tell you something...living with the elderly will change your ENTIRE perspective on time, health, money, and what is considered important. Aging sucks. It is not some cool, hip experience. You don't believe me? When was the last time you went to an old age home? Or visited your own grandparents for hours on end? Yeah that's what I thought. It is lonely. It is isolating. Because the world you remember, doesn't exist anymore. And they even know, that their whole family has lives...that people are "busy". And it's true, they are. But it is still a tough pill to swallow.
When I get home, my Nonna will run down the list of family members: "You talkeh to daddy? Britney? Dove (where) Brooklyn? Mangi oggi (you eat today?)". Because this is what she cares about - us. I am no saint, and I am not perfect. It can be trying to interact and watch this daily. Sometimes I lose my patience and my cool. Sometimes I want to run away because she is throwing up again and needs my help. But then I remember if I don't help her, there is no one in that moment, that will.
My Nonna is legally deaf and blind, and can't move. Her life has little to no quality anymore. This is a 180 from the absolute POWERHOUSE of a matriarch this woman was. And it is painful to watch the disintegration of it. She takes about 15 different medications a day. She can barely eat anything without feeling sick. Sleep eludes her most nights. And my Nonno takes care of her from morning to night. If we didn't have him, my Nonna would have to be in a home. And one day we won't have him. That's real life.
When my Nonna ends up in the hospital for whatever various reason, she gets scared, paranoid, lonely, and angry. Imagine not being able to advocate for yourself anymore? Imagine needing to go the washroom, and because you need help, they tell you to just go in your diaper? Loss of dignity I'd call it.
I am saying all of this to you, because I want you to remember the next time you're at the table with them, to put your damn phone down. Ask them some questions, even if you do not understand their answers. I have a bit of a language barrier with mine, but if THEY didn't know English, we wouldn't talk. Because I do not speak fluent Italian. I always love seeing people give attitude to someone trying to speak a second language lol. Oh I'm sorry, did YOU take the time to look foolish fumbling over your words and not being able to convey your true personality? I didn't think so. Show some respect.
And also, when they can't remember the names of your boyfriend or girlfriend, have some compassion that side effects from multiple powerful medications can cause memory loss and brain fog. It is not an insult. It is also not your place to correct them either. Remember respect your elders?
One day you're gonna be old. And you're not gonna really appreciate what I am saying here until YOU are there yourself. That's why compassion and empathy are so paramount when interacting with them. 'Cause when you need patience, grace, and respect as an elderly person, you're gonna remember that you did or did not give it when you could've. Don't be that person.
You know what kills people when people die? You know why they cry? Cause they have regrets. They regret not spending enough time, saying I love you, visiting on important days, or on any day for that matter, for not hearing the stories, or making amends. Be there for them, now, in life, not when they're gone, and you can't do that anymore.
To my grandparents, Maria and Ferdinando, thank you for this totally otherworldly cool existence you showed me. For caring about me the way my parents do. For having me in your home and letting me bring life to it. For you speaking to me in MY language, when I never bothered to learn yours for far too long. With all my love and respect, I will honor you both in your legacy. The one of family.