Tag Archives: grandparents

Purpose

“The important thing is that men should have a purpose in life. It should be something useful, something good.”
– Dalai Lama

purposeblog2I visited my grandmother in the nursing home over the weekend.  She has Alzheimer’s Disease and is, unfortunately, in the later stages.  Meaning, she has no idea who any of us are.  And while this is still heartbreaking, most of us in the family have gotten used to it.  We know what’s coming when we visit her.  We’re ready for it, and we expect it.  We’ve learned to live with it.

Unfortunately, however, she hasn’t.

One thing she kept repeating over and over again during our visit was this one same question, “What am I supposed to be doing?”

Each time she asked the question (not remembering she had just asked it seconds earlier), I would respond the same way, “You’re not supposed to be doing anything, MawMaw. Nothing at all.” And each time, she’d say, “I’m supposed to just sit here?”  I’d tell her yes, and then the cycle would repeat itself.

And then, in addition to her question, I started noticing other things around the room that seemed connected to what she was getting at.

Now, we weren’t visiting in my MawMaw’s private room.  When we arrived at the nursing home, she had been moved to the ‘day room’ for activities with the other residents (which she didn’t seem to want to participate in).  So, while visiting her, we also saw a lot of the other patients.  And while there were a variety of levels of illness (as well as a wide variety of personalities), one common theme seemed to stand out at me.  The theme that my sweet grandmother was trying to convey with that one question she kept asking me.

The search for purpose.

Take one lady for instance.  She kept pushing her little wheelchair around firmly explaining to people that they were not allowed to go certain places.  In fact, she’d block their path if they tried.  (Which in one case resulted in a kick to the leg of the other person in his wheelchair as he was simply trying to go through the doorway. Yikes!)  While little Miss Bossy Pants was an annoyance to all concerned, I started to realize that she was just appointing herself with a purpose.  A misconstrued purpose, maybe, but a purpose nonetheless.  Her job was to tell people where to go and not to go.

And this same lady at one point (when everyone was apparently in their appointed places and she had allowed herself a break from guard duty), rolled herself over to a hamper near the door and, with curiosity, opened the lid and peered in.  What she saw was a mound of dirty, used towels.  So, what does she do?  One by one (until the nurse caught and stopped her), she pulled them out, placed them neatly into her lap, and started folding them and putting them back into the hamper.

She had found a purpose. Folding laundry.

Another woman sat at her table and made bread. No, she didn’t have any flour or shortening or bowls or an oven or any of that. Not that you or I could see, anyway.  But nevertheless, she sat at her table and mixed and kneaded the dough, placed it on the table, patted it out, etc. It took me a while to figure out what she was doing, but once I did, that same thing hit me again.  She had found her purpose.  She had to bake biscuits.  And she was content in doing so.

In every person lay the same idea.  One woman chose to sing, another chose to yell at her kids (who weren’t there)…the list goes on and on.  What looks to those of us in our “right” minds as unnecessary chatter and activities, to them are anything but unnecessary.  They are, in fact, very necessary.  To their livelihood.  To their well-being.

To their sense of purpose.

Which brings me back to my MawMaw.  While sitting there, I was reminded of a quote I once heard.  I couldn’t remember it exactly, but when I got home, I looked it up.

“I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply ALL my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy.”
– Og Mandino

Those are some powerful words there.  How much do we take our purpose for granted?  How much do we complain when we have to go to work, or when we have to drive kids here and there, or when we have yet another activity to have to show up at or to have to devote time to?  Do we ever just stop to bask in the beautiful, yet forgotten, meaning of it all?

We have a purpose.

I turned to my sweet grandmother, with all of this on my mind, and I finally had an answer for her.  The next time she asked me, “What am I supposed to be doing?,” I had her answer.

“MawMaw.  All you have to do is just let us love you.”

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It’s time to rest.

I know that wasn’t enough for her.  And I know she won’t remember my answer for any length of time.  But regardless of whether it seeps into her aging mind on some level, it still remains true.  No, there are no more children to take care of.  No more laundry to fold.  No more dinners to cook or beds to make or groceries to be shopped for.  My MawMaw is right – there is nothing left that she is supposed to ‘do.’  It is time for her, whether she wants to or not, to simply rest.  That’s all.  Just rest.  And to a woman who spent her life as a wife, mother of nine, step-mother to many others, and grandmother and great-grandmother to too many to count, I’m sure that’s a tough blow to take.  But whether she realizes it or not, although there are no physical activities left for her to take care of, her purpose still remains strong and true.

She’s still here because she still has a lesson to teach us.

She may not realize that, but I do.

Thank you, MawMaw.  Because you are serving your purpose, I’ll now go on to serve mine.

(And I’ll try to remember to appreciate every moment of it….)

***

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”
– Carl Jung

Little Things

“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”
– Andy Warhol

(Let me start this blog with a disclaimer to my child.  No, Kelly – this is not a tribute to One Direction and their song of the same title.  Sorry, kid.)

Ok.  Back to business.

Little things.

I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot recently.  Especially over these past few days.  A variety of “little things” have seemed to catch my attention more lately than they might normally do.

For instance.

I went to visit my grandparents in the nursing home this past weekend.  They have both been recently admitted after battling pneumonia and, unfortunately, the prognosis is not a great one for my 96-year-old grandfather.  Thankfully, they have been placed in the same room so they can spend this time together, although my grandmother’s failing memory makes it hard for her to understand what is happening.  But even with his sickness, and her failing memory, they both periodically asked about the other and looked over to be sure the other was still there.  To me, that was beautiful.  A glance to make sure the one you love is still by your side?  Yes, a little thing in the grand scheme.  But so very beautiful.

Also, while I was there, it was mentioned that my grandmother’s fingernails needed cutting and she hadn’t been able to do it herself.  So, I cut them.  Cutting your aging grandmother’s fingernails? Definitely a little thing.  But it meant something to me.  In my tiny little way, I was able to help.  Little things.

I watched my cousin Amy feeding my grandfather.

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Putting a spoon to someone’s mouth when they aren’t strong enough to do it on their own? Yes, maybe a little thing. But is it so little? I think not.

Aside from the trip to visit my grandparents (and possibly because of it), other little things started catching my attention as well.

The man I love, for instance.

Now, for those of you don’t know us personally, let me start by explaining something.  I am in love with the quietest man alive.  It’s true.  The spoken word is not his speciality.  One of his favorite quotes is by Mark Twain: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”  Smart man.  Me, on the other hand?  I never shut up.  We are the proverbial Mutt and Jeff of verbal communication. Well, in public anyway.

But for the past few days, I seem to be “hearing” him much more clearly than I ever have before.

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that he is letting me borrow a vehicle until I can get the insurance mess sorted out from my wreck and can get a new one.  Earlier this week, the vehicle started overheating a little.  So, what does he do?  Gives me his own truck to drive to work so that he can keep it and check to see what’s wrong.  He then fixes it and returns it – with new windshield wipers to boot because it was a rainy day.  Little things?  Maybe.

After dinner one night while the kids played together, I was overwhelmed with a sudden feeling of exhaustion.  Usually I immediately start clearing the table after we eat (he cooks, so it’s the least I can do), but instead I asked if he’d mind if I went and laid down for a bit.  Not only did he not mind, but he came and laid with me.  We both ended up falling asleep and my daughter got this sweet picture of us:

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A nap together as a break from a busy day?  A little thing?  Maybe.

Another example – Mondays are hectic for me now.  My daughter was cast as Annie in our local production and I am a chorus member.  We have rehearsals on Mondays and she also has dance class on Mondays.  It’s hard to be in all these places at the same time, mind you.  So, what does that man of mine do?  Helps.  He picked her up from dance and brought her back to rehearsal so that I didn’t have to leave during chorus rehearsal.  And this followed him keeping her for me over the weekend so I was able to visit my grandparents like I mentioned before.

Little things? 

I’m telling you.  Pay attention.  Those little things speak loudly if you train your ears to hear them.

A few more before I wrap up.

I ran 11 miles yesterday in honor of all who were affected by the Boston marathon bombings.  It was my longest distance to date as a runner.  I wore my printed-out Boston runner’s bib in tribute.  While on the run, a fellow runner saw my bib as he was passing, and reached out and high-fived me.  A high-five from a stranger?  Definitely a little thing, but it sure had a big impact.  (Before the run was over, I got a few car honks as well.)

Also – a new friend of mine who is an ultra runner celebrated my 11 mile run with me as if it were her own personal victory.  Did I mention she’s an ultra runner?  She has run in a 130-mile race. Yes, you read that right.  One hundred and thirty miles.  And she celebrated my 11 like it was the greatest thing on earth.  Little things.

A random sweet text from my son; an email from a friend saying that my blog has inspired them to start running; getting chills while listening to a room full of little girls singing songs at a rehearsal for Annie….

I have to make myself stop.  This list could go on and on and on.

And isn’t that awesome?

Take the time to notice them.  They’re everywhere.  All of these little things are what make this crazy ride called life worthwhile.  Unfortunately, we are sometimes too busy to appreciate them.  But we need to stop that.  These may be the memories that fill our minds one day when we’re looking back on our past – the same ones that we might forget to give a second glance to in the present.  So, stop.  Look around.  Hear the things that aren’t being said – see the things that aren’t so obvious.  Be grateful.  Be appreciative.  Be alive.

Now, go make your list of little things.

***

“Half the joy of life is in little things taken on the run…
but let us keep our hearts young and our eyes open that nothing worth our while shall escape us.”

– Victor Cherbuliez