Monday, September 6, 2010
We used to go visit my "Nain", which is Welsh for "grandmother" and Pop-Pop about once a month or so when I was growing up. I have vivid memories of her following me around dusting and picking up. I never understood why she spent the whole time cleaning. She kept a very clean house, and I am sure it would have made her crazy to watch it deteriorate as the four of us swept through it and created chaos in our wake - which we certainly did. Or would have, if she had given us a chance.
Growing up, I think Nain softened a bit. She told us our first dirty joke. She taught me how to iron, which is a skill I have put to good use! Really, I have. On Sunday mornings, if one of my kids has a shirt or pair of pants that I cannot "release" with wrinkle releaser, I have been known to whip out the iron and give it a once over. I have also been known to iron in the instance of a wedding or funeral, but that's where I draw the line.
Anyway, back to Nain. Even with a less than demonstrative person, a grandmother is someone special. Someone you tend to love no matter what. So, I did. We all did, growing up. We all loved her with all her quirks and preferences. We knew she liked things neat, we knew she would always be dressed to the nines, we all knew she loved to be the belle of the ball, we knew she always smelled good. Not grandmother good, but really, really good. Like clean laundry and light perfume. It always made me feel good to smell that "Nain" smell. She used to laugh at us, she couldn't figure out what we were talking about. We all tried to make our laundry smell like hers, but could never get it quite right. We also knew she loved us, in her own way, and always did what she thought was good for us.
My grandmother faced some challenges and real heartbreak. Nain grew up the youngest of 5, the only girl, during the Great Depression. Her family was 1st generation,with her being the only child actually born in the U.S. . Her parents didn't speak English at first, and she could understand Welsh, but never spoke it. She married Pop-Pop during WWII, and raised my mom by herself for most of her first year. She lost one son in a tragic accident, and the other when he abandoned his entire family. She also lost her husband long before she should have, when they were only 72. She is now the last one left of her generation, all of her brothers, their wives (whom she loved dearly), all of her friends are gone.
Until recently, Nain has been fairly healthy, and very alert, most of the time. She might get confused as to how to get somewhere, or what day it was, but she always knew who we were. After a bad fall where she broke her hip, she has had some problems with memory. She has now been diagnosed with a subdoral hematoma, bleeding on the brain. The doctors say it could have been caused by the slightest bump on the head. She is in a nursing home, and is deteriorating. We go to see her, one day she knows me, the next she is very polite, but you know she can't remember who I am. She cannot put sentences together. She has had a few good days, and some bad. She looks so tiny and frail. She says "I love You" so easily now. I HATE LEAVING HER THERE. I hope she can still tell that I love her, because I do. I always have. I hope that somewhere in there, she's still Nain. Nain, who loves football and baseball. Nain, who dresses to kill, and always, always smells good. The Nain who made tiny, fancy, mince and plum pies at Christmas. Nain, who loved peach schnappes, black licorice and oatmeal raisin cookies. Nain, who chased after me with a dust rag. Nain, who told me I was her best birthday present, ever.