Tending the Bookends

One was born in 1921; the other in 2011.

Ninety years separate them, almost to the day.

The elder is my mom; the younger, my granddaughter.

Old and young, they enclose the living generations of my family. Bookends, so to speak.

Mom’s in an assisted living facility now; I visit often.

Sometimes there are tasks to be done: reading her the paper, arranging the closet, trimming fingernails.

Some days we gather around the table for coffee and cookies and conversation with her friends.

Their average age exceeds ninety; what were they like at my age, I wonder?

These quiet days with Mom are precious, I know.

She’s still lucid enough to laugh with and catch up on family gossip.

But that’s changing.  And whether I lose her to dementia first or death sooner,

I know that this is a window of time that will not stay open much longer.

Granddaughter Linnea, age eight, has a four-year-old sister, Britta.

Full of energy and spunk; they gift us with delight!

We spend a lot of time together too. We color and build and blow bubbles and play playdough.

We read and laugh and sing and visit the playground and the Arboretum.

There is great delight in being part of their lives and knowing them well.

Our home is their second home, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

They’re both still very young, and being with Grandma and Grandpa is still a treat.

But time is hurrying along for them, too; this phase of grandparenting will soon be past.

One old woman and two little girls bless my days, in this short overlap of their lifespans.

I’m struck by how alike they are, and the similar things they require of me.

By necessity, they teach me patience. It is impossible to hurry any of them.

Things must be explained slowly and carefully, and often several times.

I keep watchful eyes on each of them, paying careful attention to how they move.

Mom’s balance is unreliable; the girls’ judgement about safety is still developing.

I’ve cut food for young and old, and helped them all manage bathroom chores.

I’ve zipped up jackets and tied shoelaces for each, and counted it all privilege.

My mom was once a little girl; Linnea and Britta will be old women someday, God willing.

Being female defines them, but in such different ways. Different eras, different expectations.

Smooth young bodies, strong and healthy. Old body, frail and failing. But equally female.

Generations apart, but bound by genes and blood and love. And these few years of intersection.

So I bring them to see her. We play Go Fish and Uno. Sometimes we color.

We don’t stay long and try to end each visit with a big hug for Great Grandma.

They bring her joy, and she deserves that.

They will have living memories of her; they don’t know yet what a gift that is.

Little girls and an old woman, each breathtakingly dear to me.

I am Grandma and I am Daughter. Bound by genes and blood and love.

Right now, they all need me. But in a few short years, it won’t be so.

And I will be bereft. So bittersweet, so deep and wide, these loves.