In her old age – I know we don’t use that term anymore but she was old no matter whether you called her a “senior citizen” or the more current “older adult” – my 88 year-old Grandmother came to live with us. “Us” was my father, mother, two brothers and I, the five (5) of us and Grandma in a small three (3) bedroom home in Broomall, Pennsylvania.
Grandma also shuffled back and forth between two other places – my rich Uncle Harold’s palatial home on Long Island Sound in Greenwich, Connecticut, and Harold’s summer cottage in Rockport, Massachusetts, where Grandma and Pop (Grandpa’s children called him “Pop”) spent their summers.
Letitia Sophia Campbell Stewart (“Sophie”) felt welcome in our little home and would settle in during her stays with us. Everything would be fine for a month or two. She sort of seemed to like my mother, although no woman would be quite good enough for her Kenneth or her Harold, and both daughters-in-law knew it.
My mother was more than gracious, much more attentive to her needs than Rene, and they got along just fine. But there were times when something like a boulder would come crashing through the picture window into our living room, hit Grandma in the head, and turn her into a whining old goat. She became self-absorbed, self-pitying, annoying and quite unlovely.
Grandma was attached at the hip to Harold, 15 years older than my father. She hated the separation. Harold was the family hero, the nationally recognized Washington insider, the wealthy provider. Aloof and cold as ice but kind…if that makes any sense. Which meant he didn’t pay attention to his mother when she was at our house. Out of sight, out of mind.
Grandma became morose. “Was there a letter from Harold?” “No, Mom. I’m sorry. No mail today.”
“Harold never writes. He hasn’t called. Harold doesn’t love me. I’m just a burden. Why doesn’t God just take me. I’m of no use to anybody anymore.”
One day my mother couldn’t take it anymore. “Ken,” she said, “we have to do something or she has to go to Harold’s.”
Dad suggested taking Grandma to the doctor. She liked the doctor in Broomall.
“Sophie, what’s going on?” asked the doctor, who’d already been briefed on the boulder. Grandma repeated the script. She was a burden to everyone. Pop was gone. She was alone. “I don’t know why God doesn’t just take me!”
“Well, that’s not a problem. WE can take care of that,” said the doctor. “Really?” asked Grandma. “You bet. We can take care of that right now. I have gun out back. We can just go out back and end your misery right now.”
“O, doctor, you wouldn’t do that!!!” said Grandma.
Grandma came home as though the boulder had never hit her. The whole world had been lifted from her shoulders. She flashed her beautiful smile again and told us how much she loved us. But she continued to leave her leave her mark in the living wherever she sat, leaving my mother to ask why God hadn’t taken either Grandma or her, and I asking when I could get my bedroom back.
- Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Dec. 5, 2015