Like most college students, I went home for the holidays after finals for the fall semester concluded. I was really looking forward to being home because, well, I knew I wouldn’t really have to take care of myself for a good two weeks. For the first few years, going home was always so nice: loving family, home cooked meals, seeing old friends from high school, the usual. But I guess almost as a rite of passage, going home eventually becomes increasingly more stressful and seems like a daunting chore to appease your parents and other family members rather than actually enjoying home.
Family starts badgering you about graduation, they want to know who you’re seeing and ‘if they’re good for you’, everyone asks you about future career paths and how irresponsible it was to take that semester abroad and it just piles up and all you really want to do is go back to school, lay in your nice comfy bed, sit on tumblr and binge eat all day. However, although going home starts to feel like a nightmare when you hit your twenties, you need to do it.
My grandmother is a seventy five year old woman, recently widowed within the past year or so. After nearly fifty years of co-habitation and a loving life with her husband, my grandfather, she suddenly feels as if her life has crumbled. For the majority of my family, it’s hard to comprehend because it seems like we all struggle to maintain our romantic relationships. On again off again lovers, breakups with long-term boyfriends and the realization you’re dating a complete manchild don’t necessarily paint a good picture of what a lifetime of happiness with your ‘one true love’ will be like. So as you can see, it’s kind of hard for us to be emphatic with my grandmother.
She has attended grieving groups, joined the neighborhood watch with the other widows, and began regularly volunteering at the soup kitchen, but in spite of all of this human interaction and mental stimulation, she still feels incredibly lonely. Unknown to me for my entire twenty-one years of life in this family, Christmas has never been her favorite holiday. She does attend the Christmas Eve service at the Methodist church and sings Christmas carols with her white-haired gal pals, but the holiday brings up bad memories of her childhood. Obviously, this doesn’t bode well with not having her husband, so this year was especially painful for her.
One day, she was in the garage doing the laundry when she tripped over the basket and fell. She couldn’t get up and screamed for my mother who then called an ambulance and had her taken to the ER. Fortunately, she was fine; No concussion, no broken bones, no internal bleeding, just a few bruises and scratches. We were so happy that she was fine, but we believe the fall maybe rattled her brain a little too much because over the next few days, she became senile. She couldn’t remember any conversation. Any time we left the house without her, she thought we weren’t coming back. I made a smartass remark in passing once and she said ‘Don’t worry. You’ll be putting me in the home soon enough.’ We were all in shock over her sudden change in behavior. And on top of all of this, my sister and I were fighting pretty badly and this all made my mother depressed. Happy Holidays?!
My grandma began to feel slightly better as the days progressed and Christmas passed, and I felt like I should take this opportunity, while she was acting like the grandma I came to know, to do something special for her: I took her out for a drink. Yes, this sound like an awful idea considering she’s on so much medication, can barely walk, and is usually in bed before 10pm, but I thought this could be an amazing bonding experience for the two of us. And it was! She was so happy that I, a cool, hip, twenty something college boy wanted to be seen with his grandmother downtown. We went to this gastro pub, I ordered a beer and for her, some fruity mixed drink, and we just chatted. She talked to me about feeling better, how she was happy to be out of the house and that even though the family was fighting, she was glad we could all be home. We then walked around downtown for a few minutes, shared a few laughs, and maybe a few tears, but it was all worth it when we came home and she looked at me in the eyes and said ‘Thank you for a great night. I’ll never forget it.’
The reason it is important to still go home, even though it feels more and more stressful each passing year, is that our days on this earth are numbered. Nobody knows when or how they will die, but we all will. It is important to recognize and acknowledge that your family loves you and helped mold you into the person you are today. And at times, dealing with them is a pain in the ass and you wish you could be far, far away. But, we need to remember to cherish these moments and to love and be loved by them so that later on, we can do the same for others.