Last week my grandmother fell and she couldn’t get up, which was not funny at all, given her age. My grandmother is 93 years old, and at that age, a stumble can be life threatening. So when I heard that my mom had to call a family friend over and sit there with my grandmother in the floor while she waited for him to arrive and help move her, my heart jumped into my throat. Usually for old people, a fall like that means hospital, then nursing home, then tears for those who love them.
Leila heard me talking about Granny to my sister. Its funny; Leila and Granny have such a cute relationship. Granny has regressed, Leila has matured, and now they’re kind of the same age. They laugh at the same silly things, have the same short attention span, they tell on each other, and they antagonize each other. Leila reads to Granny from Dr. Seuss, Granny reads to Leila from In Touch. It is absolutely adorable. They are BFF’s, Leila and her great-grandmother. So when Leila approached me with eyes wide and voice low, I knew she was worried. “Did Granny die?” she asked. “No, silly. She just got hurt”, I replied. “Is she going to die?” she asked. Oh my baby. Here she is, such a little girl, trying to resolve all these things that have happened in her world. This summer has taught her that death is as real as Christmas. She understands, maybe more than the average 6 year old, that people get infirm and then they die and they don’t come back, no matter how much we love them. And she has noticed that my family is shrinking. What do I say to this kid who keeps burying people she loves? How do I explain that, yes, mommy’s got a little family because nobody lives forever? And how do I resolve with myself the shrinking of my nucleus? After all, I want my children to feel connected to my whole family, but what if my whole family – one day – is gone?
“Sooner or later everybody goes to heaven”, I tell my baby. “But Granny’s so old, she’s probably going to go to heaven soon, right mommy?” she asks, with all the seriousness in the world. “We can’t know that, muffin. All we know is that we have to show people how much we love them and have fun with them while they are here with us”, I say. After all, it is all I can say. I wish kids could learn some of the tougher lessons later. But since life has dealt us some different cards, I guess all I can do is try to cushion the blow. Kids, however, are surprisingly resilient. “Yeah mommy, Granny’s my precious partner and I’m gonna show her all the time. Besides, even if she dies, she’ll still be in my heart, just like Poppop”. She’s so strong and smart and insightful and amazing. When I grow up, I wanna be just like my baby.