Mildred Parmele 1910-2010

My grandma died this morning. She would have turned 100 in December. She lived alone in a nursing home without any family nearby, and I regret that. I also mourn the old ways, when your grandma lived next door until the end of her days.

Grandma loved me to pieces when I needed it most, a sensitive child with too-busy parents and not enough love to go around. She lost both parents at age 13.

After having three boys, I was her first grandchild, a girl. She dressed me up like a cherished doll. She fed me her baked goods, her warm soup, her home grown beans.

She gave me her style, her jewelry, her designer fashions, in a long life in which everything becomes vintage.

She was tough as nails, lived for fun, and had a cold streak of stern Norwegian judgment. As she gradually lost her marbles, she became even more fun - a creature of the moment, with no memory of yesterday, or longing for tomorrow.

If you gave her anything -- a cup of coffee, a cookie, a napkin – she said Thank you! As if she really, truly meant it.

When she could no longer travel, she moved to assisted living, then a nursing home, and finally the Alzheimer’s floor. I loved her, but where was I when she needed me most? Far away, in a world filled with yesterdays and tomorrows.

I visited three or four times, made the day’s journey to the Nebraska cornfields of my birth. But I could not feed her my baked goods, my warm soup, my home grown beans.

For her 99th birthday I brought her Lefse, the sweet potato bread of her childhood. By then she was more than halfway to another world : done with eating. talking, reading, interacting. Even holding hands for too long was too much. Go away, she finally said. And I understood.

I sat with her quietly, loving her concave face, her transparent skin that revealed every vein and artery, her emaciated body that could still kick and punch the nurses who burst into the room to change her bedding at night.

I sang her soft lullabies, and when my sister came we sang Christmas carols. Grandma came alive for awhile. She made sounds and mouthed the words – even the second verses. We cried and said good-bye.

I loved my grandma and she knew it. But I missed most of her end-of-life -- and I missed seeing her go.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting and so kind... I invite you to contribute to CHMagazine with such a beautiful writings.
    Be well, dear Christine Castigliano, and hear from you soon,

    Daniel D. Peaceman, writer and editor