While looking back at my childhood doesn’t always produce the happiest memories, I will never forget the time I enjoyed with not only my grandparents, but my great-grandparents as well. I remember Maw (my great-grandmother on my mom’s side) feeding me soaky bread (biscuit dipped in coffee) in the living room of my Mamaw T’s house (my mom’s mom). I also remember bits and pieces about the time surrounding her death. I wasn’t quite 5. Those are some of my earliest memories of my life.
I didn’t lose any other grandparents or great-grandparents until I was much older. I know that I was lucky. My Pawpaw Gulledge (my great-grandpa on my dad’s side) didn’t die until I was 14. It happened on Thanksgiving Day. He laid down on the couch to take a nap after lunch and never woke up. My Mamaw Nancy (his wife) died 4 years later in a car accident (ironically, on the date my daughter would be born 7 years later.) I was 5 days shy of my 19th birthday. I still remember getting the phone call at work. My Pawpaw T (my mom’s dad) didn’t pass away until I was grown and married. It was in 2006 and I was pregnant with my daughter at the time. We all stood in the waiting room at the hospital and made the decision as a family to stop having them restart his heart. We waited in his room with him, in a circle around his bed, until he passed. I was 25. His wife, my Mawmaw T, died 2 years later. My children will never really know any of them.
I still have both of my dad’s parents, Mamaw and Pawpaw and my kids have grown up having them as staples in their lives. They know no difference between Mamaw and Pawpaw and their other grandparents. The ‘great’ part is lost on them. But Mamaw and Pawpaw are both getting older. They are very active, even at 70 and 75 respectively, but they’ve started to experience more and more health issues, the latest of which for my grandmother has been fluid on her knee and it’s making it very difficult for her to get around. My kids, Cullen especially, don’t really understand why Mamaw isn’t able to do the things with them that she has in the past. They’ve always enjoyed spending the weekend with her, being outside gardening and doing other dirt-filled activities, as well as shopping, going out to eat and all the other running around they always do. Mamaw just can’t do it anymore, at least not right now, and even once her knee is healed, I’m not sure how much longer it’s going to be before something else happens and she’s back to not being the Mamaw they are used to.
While I understand the changes, it’s hard for me too. Mamaw and Pawpaw raised me. Their home was my home, literally, for much of my childhood. If I’m struggling with their aging, how am I supposed to help my kids understand it?
I don’t want to make them think that everything will be back to normal soon, because I don’t know that it will. Papaw won’t be able to run his excavators everyday, like Cullen is so used to, forever. At some point, Mamaw and Pawpaw aren’t going to be able to handle the kids all weekend long on their own either. I hate to say no when they ask, and by ‘they’ I mean the kids or the great-grandparents, but sometimes I think neither understand the limits they are facing. I don’t want Mamaw and Pawpaw to take on too much just because it’s what the kids want and I don’t want the kids to push the issue either.
Where does this leave us?
I *hope* beyond all hope that my kids won’t deal with losing them completely until they are much older. I know that I’m never going to be ready to lose them myself. But they are going to lose the Mamaw and Pawpaw they have known their whole life at some point, even if it’s just the active, outgoing parts of them.
If you’ve dealt with this, I implore you to share your experiences with me. Input is SO needed here! Have you found a great book that you think is a must share? Share it!