Since I was little without a doubt, my heroes have been my grandparents. My best memories growing up always start with our car pulling into their driveway to drop us off for a mini vacation with them.
So many memories would be made, more than I could ever write. It’s where I learned to sew, bake, and be a devoted wife from my grandmother. Other times I would sit and listen to my grandfather’s stories of growing up in the great depression and eventually working as an aeronautical engineer even though he never graduated high school. Their shared stories of how my grandmother handled raising children and moving around the country by herself while my grandfather was deployed overseas. Without fail every visit there would be an icebox pie waiting for me in the refrigerator.
Along the way in all those adventures, my grandparents would tell us life lessons and encourage us towards learning and the simple ways that the world seems to be quietly doing away with.
As we started having kids we would take them to visit my grandparents. My grandmother would sit them at the bar in her kitchen and fill the vintage tupperware bowls full of sliced fruit and sit and talk with them. She would pull out the box of toys left from when I was a child. Old cars that every child coming into her house had played with, vintage Chatty Kathy dolls and even a few stray Ninja Turtles would be spread throughout the living room and over the marble coffee table.
It was magical to watch my children experience these memories that I had while making their own.
Slowly things started to change. There was the first trip when there wasn’t an icebox pie or any baked goods because she could no longer spend a long time in the kitchen baking.
Then the visits got shorter in length because they were tired. A wheelchair because a constant necessity instead of an occasional crutch.
Finally came the visit where my grandparents kept trying to give my children things that I kept putting back in their place, telling them that there’d be time for that in the future. I regret not walking through that house and making more memories one last time. Unbeknownst to me, but known to them, they moved a few weeks later to a new home that was easier for them to care for and also receive some care from.
Arranging visits with the kids in tow got harder because of illness and hospital stays.
Little by little it became clear to me that I was starting to lose my heroes.
There was a time in my life that I was lost and needed someone to guide me. One call them to them out of desperation and they worked hard to get me back on track. No longer just heroes but Super heroes.
The truth is that people just don’t talk about the feelings that we go through as we see our loved ones entering the end period of their life. It’s hard. It’s not sudden or something you know will come soon that you can deal with in a timely fashion. It’s long and drawn out with changes that are subtle but true.
Little by little the pieces are falling apart and there’s nothing you can do but try to be there.
But being there is hard because those little things are scary. Accepting what will eventually happen is scary. Seeing the the people that you consider to be the strongest people alive become frail is scary.
As the care for their needs become greater, their living quarters become smaller with relatives working hard just to keep them together. No longer are they living in a home that is decorated beautifully with the items I’ve seen since birth. Now others have tried hard to make a small space beautiful but it’s not from my grandparent’s touch.
The old maple table that I learned to sew at is gone. The old metal lawn furniture where my grandfather would sit at for hours a day, enjoying the outdoors is gone. Even the smell is different now.
Honestly there’s times I haven’t wanted to visit when I’m in town because I’m afraid of what I’ll see, or what else would have changed. Slowly but surely I’m starting to lose my heroes.
But here’s the truth – My grandparents planted my love of history and sentimental value deep within me. No matter what happens in the next few years, I have strong memories to hold onto. No matter how scary it is, I have a amazing husband who urges me to go and once I get there – the fear is gone because I want to spend as much time with them as I can.
After a year beginning with loss I am thankful for each and every second I get to spend with them. I’m grateful for every year that they get to see my kids grow. My grandfather always asked me to become a writer. They don’t understand what blogs are and can’t get online but I can tell him that I’m living that dream.
I’m thankful for every single second that they’re still with me. But it’s hard and I’m sad to finally accept that I’m slowly losing my heroes.