"Believe it or not, it does get easier." That was my enlightening and, I'm sure, ever-so-helpful comment to my sister today. I arrived last night at my parents' house and visited with them and my grandmother who lives across the street. This morning I slept in, then took my grandmother to her hair appointment and met my sister and her three kids for lunch. My nieces and nephew are almost exactly the same spacing in age as my own children. Right now they are 5, 3, and 1. Sometimes in the craziness that is my own daily life, I forget that when the kids were younger it was harder due to the sheer physical exhaustion that parenting young children can bring. There are definitely challenges to parenting older kids, and at times I'm flat-out scared about soldiering through the teenage years with them, but I'll admit right out that I'm enjoying these years more overall.
At the same time I had the opportunity to observe my sister, the young mother, in action, my own mother's experience with my grandmother provided an odd juxtaposition: the child becoming the parent. I've posted before of my grandmother's recent decline. Her memory continues to be a challenge. When I visited last, she talked constantly about the grass in her front yard dying and how unhappy she was about it. My mother arranged to have a crew come out to trim the trees and cut one down so that they could plant new grass that would have a chance of getting some sunlight and living. Last night, my grandmother was very concerned because she didn't want the tree cut down. She insisted that she didn't care about the grass and loved the trees. My mother told me that they had just had a long conversation about what to do, and that my grandmother had agreed about cutting down the tree. But, she called the tree service and made sure they only trimmed it and didn't take it down. This is just a small example of what my mother deals with daily, and I respect her so much for taking good care of my grandmother, even though it is often a frustrating task.
Part of what is so challenging about my grandmother is the seeming unfairness of her situation. While most people would not think it unusual for an 89-year-old to have some memory issues, dementia is not something we've had to deal with before in our family. Why did I take my grandmother to her hair appointment today? Because my mother needed to serve as driver to my 95-year-old great-aunt, my grandmother's sister. She was in need of a chauffeur to deliver her to her speaking engagement, a conference for aspiring authors where she delivered presentations to over 200 people at two breakout sessions. My aunt is an accomplished author who has published several books and too many articles to count. My guess is that few in her audience would ever put her age at 95. Even better? Their 99-year-old sister is busy redecorating her living room. Of course, she's having the furniture recovered rather than buying new and bought a rug on sale because, even though she happens to be a millionaire, she doesn't want to waste money she might need in the future! All that longevity and mental acuity is wonderful, but it really brings home my own grandmother's frailty.
On a bit happier note, tomorrow I'll be attending my nephew's first birthday party. He's a cute little guy, and I'm looking forward to seeing him dig into his first cake. I'm also looking forward to seeing some candids of my kids at camp. The camp posts daily pictures online, but there haven't been any up yet. From past experience, tomorrow should bring the first set. They do have cabin photos posted, though, and I can see that Soccer Boy is already wearing an outfit that doesn't match, leading me to believe that things are right on track. I'm betting that he is having a fabulous time complete with no mom to tell him that maroon and green are not the best pairing. And, really, who am I to say they're not? Have fun Soccer Boy, have fun!