Mama and Elliot have new means of movement. Mama got a walker while I was on my mountain adventure. She doesn’t need one, really, but she’s been talking about it for a while. Two years ago she tried to get her doctor and then the physical therapist to tell her she needed one for balance, but they said she was doing fine with her cane, which she uses only outside. She has started holding onto an arm outside as well since I came to live with her, because she increasingly can’t see.
The reason she gives now for wanting a walker is so she won’t annoy me or wear me out by having to hold onto me when we’re walking up the driveway or on the boardwalk at the nature preserve. (It doesn’t bother me, she made that up.) I think the real reason is she wants to be more independent—and maybe, since she fell while holding onto me, she doesn’t completely trust me. I understand the independence thing; that she can’t say that’s what she yearns for is just who she is.
I returned to Gigi-care of 7-month-old Elliot this week, and found he has new mobility too, since I saw him on my return from the mountain a week and a half earlier. He’s scooting! Like Mama, he has new-found independence. The difference is, Mama’s new independence frees me a bit; Elliot’s restricts me—or soon will. He doesn’t enjoy it yet—it’s hard slow work, and he moves even slower than Mama and her walker; but very soon he will accomplish the skill and I’ll not be able to turn my back.
I am Elliot’s Monday/Tuesday caregiver, with one week under my belt. And now I get it. I get the grandchild-made-deity thing. When Emma “jokingly” suggested before I moved across the country that I could live in Seattle following my one-year-stint with elder care (that is now of indefinite length) and be granny nanny to a hypothetical child, I said that would not be happening. Sorry. She reminded me this week my exact words were “I have raised children and I am done.” Then, out for a walk in Seattle on a visit B.E. (Before Elliot), I observed a woman walking hand-in-hand with her granddaughter and I had a slight change of heart. I hadn’t had the opportunity to really know my grandsons in North Carolina, they lived too far away, even when I lived in NC. And one of them, born just before I moved, knows me only as a name attached to a photo; maybe for the postcards I send every week. It makes me sad. I long for that connection, the one I didn’t have with my grandmothers, and my children didn’t have with theirs. Maybe, I hedged, I could do a little caregiving; but I wasn’t going to give up all my life to play on the floor with Duplo blocks, push a swing, scribble with crayons.
Then came Elliot, and two days in September. And everything changed.
I walked into the apartment early Monday morning (after 2 hours and 15 minutes on the road). Elliot was sitting on a blanket playing while Emma putzed in the kitchen, getting ready for work; Wynne had already left for her new job as a kindergarten teacher. He looked up at me when I opened the door and his whole face smiled. I melted. I swooped him up, held him over my head, squeezed him; and he laughed.
The Wednesday/Thursday nanny told Emma and Wynne the library (a 20-block walk) had story time at noon on Mondays. I wasn’t sure how interested a 7-month-old could be in story time, but what the heck, it was a nice day for a walk and it’s never too early to get savvy with the bibliothéque. Turns out it was story time for babies. Lots of babies. Babies with moms and nannies (I assume) and dads and even a couple other grandmas. I sat Little e down on a blanket and he looked all around in amazement. When a little girl sat down and stole his toy, he was fascinated. (I got it back for him.) When a little boy moved in, Elliot reached out and touched him. Well, grabbed him. Socializing! We sang and clapped and danced. We learned to say change and diaper in sign language. Okay, I learned. We listened to a story. I was not exactly in my element, the leader was a little annoying; but no matter, it wasn’t about me. I was there with my grandson and that was a-mazing.
On Tuesday we walked along a bustling retail street and stopped at the sweet little not-small-town grocery store and the kitchen section of the hardware store and looked at flowers in their last gasp before fall. Getting to spend time in a metropolitan area and then go home to trees and birds and my garden in the country? What can I say, lucky me.
When I first wrote about caregiving at both ends of the spectrum (Extreme Caregiving), I was fascinated by the physical similarities and emotional differences in caring for a 3-month-old and a 98-year-old. In Elliot I see the beginning; in his eyes optimism. With Mama it’s all about endings and disappointment. Elliot is learning to move under his own power; before long he will be upright and someday won’t need his four-wheeled vehicle. Mama has added four wheels to walking, and one day will need to sit and be pushed.
Re-entry was challenging. It was so sweet holding that baby last spring; but now he has personality, and I’m a goner. I didn’t want to leave. I returned home to constipation and diet issues and emergency room fears. But now I feel like I can handle it. I have been much more patient and kind this week. Mama and I walked six laps at the mall on Thursday, she pushing a shopping cart. We lapped another elderly woman several times. Mama was thrilled with her energy after, finally, constipation relief. On Monday I’ll be with Eli Beli again! In the city! With my lively young daughter and daughter-in-law. Eating food not geared toward delicate systems and feeding an enthusiastic baby homemade pureed peas and peaches. And I still haven’t had to deal with poop. Life is good.
When can we start scribbling with crayons? And make dish gardens? Maybe we’ll go to the park and swing this week.