Last week my family crammed into my husband’s Prius for the 4-hour drive on Interstate I-70 to St. Louis to visit my Mom, “Grandma Rhetta.” My kids are 16 and 18 and they insisted we make the trip because it might be the last opportunity for my daughter to see Grandma Rhetta before she leaves home for the first time to start college. Although we have made this trip more than 100 times, my heart was full of pride and wistfulness over this visit, especially because the kids are nearly grown and Mom is very frail at this time of her life. She is confined to her bed with only her imagination, visits from friends and family and the television to comfort and occupy her. Sometimes a short visit with Grandma Rhetta is best, even though the grueling drive on the highway suggests a longer stay.
When people love one another, they willingly take time from their “journey” to be together. As Mom’s health declines and my teenagers approach adulthood, their journeys are polar opposite. Yet my kids keep wanting to go back and love their Grandma. Even though it was a conscious effort by me to foster a bond between my children and their Grandparents, discovering that at the busiest and most self-centered part of their journey they choose to spend time with their Grandma Rhetta overwhelms me with joy and sadness (because I am perimenopausal now!).
We enter Mom’s world – her room – and she lights up with love and reaches from her bed for Isa and Mario. Before each visit, she tells me many times to inform them she is expecting many warm hugs – and she gets them! The kids adore Grandma Rhetta’s Southern accent and the warmth and charm it exudes. Imitating her characteristic sayings has always been funny to them (in a loving way): “My Stars!” and “Iced tay with lots of lemons!” are among their favorites. Grandma Rhetta “southernizes” the pronunciation of Isa’s name (pronounced “Eesa”) so it sounds like “Eaze-a-Bella!”.
All those mornings at Grandma Rhetta’s kitchen table being lavished with her love and her special buttermilk pancakes mean something to Isa and Mario, and nothing thrills me more. I’ll never forget the first time Mom visited Kansas City after Isa was born. She rushed in the house after her long drive and, without putting her purse or keys down, walked straight to Baby Isa and cooed, “Are we gonna be friends?”. Indeed they are.