Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hanging Out With My Gram

My mom needed a break this weekend, so she went on a Frenchy's marathon with my sister and I looked after my grandmother. My mom is the primary caregiver for my gram, who is 92, relatively self-sufficient but in need of someone being present 24 hours a day, and getting really, really hard of hearing. Speech has transformed into shouting at the top of your lungs if you're talking to Gram. So it's good for Mom to take a break every now and then.

I'm the back-up caregiver. My husband and I live with my Mom and Gram, sort of like The Walton's. When Mom needs to have sanity breaks, I step in. Often I've had to insist that she take them. But this time she scheduled one before she was at the breaking point, which was a major accomplishment for Mom. My sister can always use a break, too, so two birds went with one stone. Phew!

Our apartment is in the basement, so when I'm looking after Gram I basically move upstairs and sleep in Mom's bed to be near Gram. It ends up being a 'change-is-as-good-as-a-rest' type of thing. Although I do spend a lot of time traipsing up and down the stairs between the two households. What's made things a whole lot easier is Gram's welcome for my dog to come upstairs.

Gram has never had pets and has always been uncomfortable around cats or dogs. When my husband and I got our dog in 2001, we lived with Gram in Yarmouth in the upstairs apartment. We knew how she felt about dogs so we kept Xena in our apartment and didn't even consider bringing her into Gram's space. When we all moved to Dartmouth and combined three households (Gram's, Mom's and ours) into the new house, Gram would see Xena from time to time on the deck. She could see that Xena was one of the most mellow dogs around.

Last year she agreed that Xena could come upstairs, since Gram mostly stays in her rocker and wouldn't worry about tripping over her. Now on weekends like this one, where Xena would be alone while my husband was at work, now she can come upstairs while I'm looking after Gram. You can't imagine how wonderful it feels to watch my dog walk over to Gram and put her chin on Gram's lap. To see my gram melt into a smile is incredible. "She's looking at me. Look!" Gram says.

A great stride forward for a woman who once only considered animals as a source of meat for the table.


Kelly said...

My grandmother was the same way with pets having grown up on a farm. To her dogs were working animals that lived outside or in the barn and not 'pets'. Then fell in love with our family dog, Bailey, followed by Chaser, and then of course my own Coop (who is obviously irresistable!). Funny how quickly a pair of sad eyes and unrelenting affection can change a person's mind.

Annie Mac said...

My grandmother lived with my parents as well and I often stayed with her when my parents needed a break. She died a few years ago at age 100.

It's wonderful that you have such a close family that you can all be there for each other.

julia said...


I think Gram thought I was making things up when I'd tell her that Xena felt this way or that. She'd say, "How can you know that?" Then last night Xena was watching intently while I gave Gram her puffers, which I explained to Xena. When she heard Gram's name, she moved forward and put her head in Gram's lap. That was a light-bulb moment for Gram.

Annie Mac,

100! I'm shooting for 100 myself. Yes, we all get along very well. We've been sharing the same house for 6 years now and we plan to just keep on going that way.

annette said...

I think it's great that you live so close together and help each other out. That is what family should be about.