“What are you doing?”
“I’m writing your name on the tag.” Mom picked up a black permanent marker. “See here, G-L-A-D-Y-S,” Mom said, spelling it out. “We don’t want your clothes to get lost at the nursing home.”
Grandma’s blank expression confirmed Mom’s suspicion. She didn’t understand. If she had, she would have argued.
For many years, our family had worked hard to keep Grandma and Grandpa in their home. But with Grandpa’s physical limitations and Grandma’s dementia, it was no longer possible. Finally, my mom and her siblings sat down with my grandparents for a difficult conversation.
Grandpa wasn’t pleased with the decision, but he knew what must be done. He also knew that convincing Grandma would be no small task. She hadn’t even liked it when they hired a caretaker a few months back. She especially didn’t like “that woman” fussing over Grandpa. After all, Grandma had taken care of him for the last seventy-one years. She wasn’t about to quit now.
“I have a home,” Grandma said, folding her arms like a strong-willed two-year-old. She didn’t want to hear any more about nursing homes.
But moving day had come all too soon.
Mom grabbed a stack of clothes off the bed and checked her watch. “We’d better go.”
My grandpa and aunt were already making their way toward the door. Grandpa hunched over his walker and shuffled tiny, slow steps. Janet walked behind, making sure he didn’t lose his balance. Meanwhile, Mom tried to gently usher Grandma along.
“I have a home,” Grandma repeated, shaking her head. As soon as they reached the door, Grandma stopped.
“I am not doing this.” Grandma’s eyebrows furrowed with determination.
My aunt and mom exchanged looks. They didn’t want to upset her. Of course, they didn’t want to force her. But what could they do? Grandpa looked back from his walker.
“I need you with me, Gladdy.”
Grandma hesitated for a moment, then followed Grandpa out the door and into the car.
Grandma stared out the window from the backseat. They passed the small country church my grandparents had attended for seventy years.
“Where are we?” Grandma asked. Janet tried to distract her. She dug through her purse, found a mint and gave it to Grandma.
Meanwhile, my mom worried. It had already been such a difficult day, but what if the worst was yet to come? How would Grandma react when they got to the nursing home? What if she got upset and refused to stay?
Grandma interrupted Mom’s thoughts. “I don’t like this.”
Janet touched Grandma’s arm. “I know you don’t, Mom. We don’t like it either, but you know it’s for the …”
Just then Mom noticed the sour expression on Grandma’s face. Grandma spit the mint into her shaky hand, rolled down the window and tossed it outside.
Suddenly, Mom and Janet looked at one another and broke into spontaneous laughter. Grandma wasn’t referring to the nursing home; she was talking about the mint. They shook their heads and laughed some more.
They probably looked strange, sharing that unexpected laugh in the midst of such a difficult day. But at that moment, laughter was exactly what they needed. It broke the tension. It added a little joy.
My challenge this week? No matter how bad the day (or how difficult the decision) I will be looking for those small moments of joy.