Love my Grandmother

Gram’s favorite song was “Will you love me when I am old and feeble”. I believe it is an old Carter Family tune. She asked for it specifically when she and my Grandfather celebrated their 70’Th wedding anniversary. She mentioned it again the last time I spoke to her.

Will you love me when I’m old and feeble

Will you love me when I’m old and gray
When this heart of mine grows tired and weary
Will you love me as you do today”

I think this was a very fitting song, as I, along with all her grandchildren (66 and counting) love her very much, no matter how old she is. These days, she isn’t doing quite so well. She has been dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, and since Grap passed on, it has been getting worse each day. I believe she is in the fourth stage of the disease right now. Just the other day, I was talking to mom on the phone, and she said that when they visited Gram at her home, she did not know who they were. This must be so hard for Dad, knowing that his own mom does not recognize him.

She is still as sweet as ever though. Even when she was confused to whom everyone else was; she always recognized me. At first, I thought it was due to the fact that both my grandfather and I bore the same name: Thaddeus! But that was not it, as she knew that I was working away from home, and asked when I would come to see her again.

It bothered me to have to tell her that I would only be returning home Christmas. She exclaimed that this was too long a time not to see me. She always had a way of bringing a tear to my eye. I fear that I will return home well before Christmas, to attend her funeral. This too brings tears to my eyes.

Cold Brook is a close knit community of which my grandparents were the patriarchs. When they married, they had 11 children. All of their children own homes in Cold Brook to this day. My mother’s parents moved to Cold Brook back in the early 60’s, and many of my mom’s siblings married into the White family, creating quite the large family base in our area (as well as making a very confusing family tree).

Many of my childhood memories are filled with adventures with my Grandmother. Gram, as she is affectionately known, loved kids, and made sure that her busy daily schedule always allowed time for us, and there were quite the number of us. Can you imagine having 66 grandchildren? This was a large number of kids, but Gram made time for us all. She would take us picking raspberries down an old woods road. She would take us out to help Grap with the haymaking, and if we were really lucky, we could jump aboard the trailer Grap used to haul the hay to the barn, and Gram and all us kids would enjoy a hay ride across the gigantic fields that he used to sustain a living. If we were really lucky, she would take us to her enormous strawberry garden, and allow us to eat as many berries as we wanted, usually resulting in many sore bellies and random trips to the old outhouse beside my parent’s home.

Gram’s childhood was one with many responsibilities. Her dad, Henry, passed away when he was very young. At 55 years of age, Henry contacted Tuberculosis and died from the disease within the same year, leaving Gram’s mom to care for a large family by herself. She also had a brother, Ralph contact the same disease, and later die from complications from TB.

When her Dad died, Gram, being the oldest, had to take on the responsibilities of raising her remaining 6 siblings, while her mom worked to clean the homes of families that were well to do, bringing home small bits of money to care for the family. It must have been very difficult to raise 6 children and then marry and raise 11 more, but Gram loved every one of them, she cared for them, worried when they didn’t show up for supper, and generally gave her heart to her family.

“When our children all grow up and leave us
And have sweet families of their own
Will you still be happy with me Darlin’
Will you still be happy in our home”

Gram and Grap lived a happy but hard working life, and stayed together for 71 years. Grap passed away in 2006, from Prostate Cancer. He had the disease for at least 7 years, but omitted to tell anyone for fears that they would worry. He chose, rather, to deal with the pain with a bottle of Rum. My grandfather never drank until he had this disease, we just missed the signs that he was suffering, possibly due to way in which he always took control of things and got things done. Each night, before bedtime, he drank a hot toddy, which he claimed helped him sleep.

On his death bed, he shared many stories with us, stories that told of his younger days, when he would travel from Stephenville to Port aux Basques, either on foot or by jumping on the nearest train, and then on ferry to Nova Scotia. He shared fond memories of his many work experiences, most of which involved hard labor. He also spoke of his days working on the Reid Railroad, in which he believed that men were treated as slaves, working for pennies. He had no regrets however, and wished that he could do it all over again.

He told us that his dreams were filled with memories of the days when his children were young. How he would spend many hours out in the fields, tending to gardens, making hay, raising livestock and running a sawmill that he made himself.

My Grandfather told of how he taught himself to read using old books his father had in their home, and how he passed on this knowledge to his children. He also shared life secrets with us that we often laugh at now. One such secret was the secret to a happy marriage. Anyone who managed to stay married for 71 years must know something, and he assured us of this by telling us that the secret to a happy marriage was a woodshed. To our amazement (and laughter), he explained that when an argument breaks out, often words are said that aren’t meant. He said the best thing to do in a time like this was to go to your shed and cool off. He also said that the shed allowed him to get out of the noise created by 11 children arguing and fighting amongst themselves.

It was apparent that he spent a great deal of time in this woodshed, as we found out after he passed on. We found many farm implements he had made, some never used, but stored neatly in the rafters of his now withering shed.

My grandfather was a very colorful person who everyone loved, especially Gram. I was told on many occasions that once meeting my grandfather, a person never forgot him. He always had a bit of wisdom to share or a funny story that would make the grouchiest person break into laughter, and I will always have his stories and his memories to keep me sane.

Gram never got over his death, or the fact that he went before she did. On one occasion, she asked my mom to bring her to his grave. When they got to the graveyard, she asked mom to point out the grave. She marched over and stomped loudly on his grave, yelling “Damn you”, “Damn you for dying before I did”.

“When the chains of life begin to lower
and fate descends upon our home
With graying hair and hands that tremble
Will all your love be mine alone”

Although he passed before she did, he made sure that everything was taken care of before leaving this world. On the Thursday before he passed on, we were all in his hospital room while Grap was sleeping. The doctors suddenly came into the room. They ordered everyone out of the room saying that he flat lined. In about fifteen minutes, they came out and invited us back to the room. Apparently, Grap had died, but they revived him. When he came to, he said that he wanted to go home, that he had a few things to take care of before dying. And that he wanted to die in his home, not in some hospital with a crowd of strangers fussing over him. Damn his pride!

Upon returning home, my grandfather called a lawyer, and had a will drawn up. He called social services and ensured that a homecare worker would be there for my grandmother, to take care of her and see that she lives a good, happy life. He also called us all and made sure to say goodbye to each and every one of us. Then he did something that my dad will always endure and will never forget – something that brought a tear to the eye of a man I never seen cry.

Since my grandparents had so many children, 6 sons and 5 daughters, my grandfather never seemed to have time to share with my dad. My dad was the oldest of the sons. Dad often said that he would always have time for us and he did. He said that he often felt insecure in the presence of his dad, and that nothing he said or did seemed to impress his father.

On my grandfather’s dying bed, he called my father into the room. He told dad that he was always proud of him. That he had did a great job raising his family (us), and that he always had the utmost respect for him. When my dad replied how he always felt, my grandfather assured him that the reason he didn’t comment on any of the behaviours or ideas dad came up with, was because he didn’t need any comments, because he always made the right decisions.

My grandfather said that he felt that it was the younger sons and daughters that needed him more.  He admitted that this was the wrong decision, and that the only regret in his life is that he did not spend more time with dad. He also said that he should have taken a page from dad’s book of child rearing and copied it to his own ideas. This made my dad very happy. Dad has been different since that day.

Gram, on the other hand, always made Dad feel special. She always praised him for things he did in life, and she loved him every day since he was born. The other day, she did not know who he was, and was frightened that he was in her home.

Gram only has a short time left with us. Her body is quickly shutting down and she does not eat. She said that Grap is with her now, and her journey is about to take place. She lies in the bed, with a smile on her face, holding out her hand as if my grandfather is lying next to her holding it. I love you Gram.

“Will You Love Me When I’m Old and Feeble
Will you love me when I’m old and gray
When this heart of mine grows tired and weary
Will you love me as you do today”

5 thoughts on “Love my Grandmother

  1. Reblogged this on Sightsnbytes' Blog and commented:

    This was written back in April if 2010, and since then, my grandmother’s condition has gotten much worst. Just yesterday I visited her, and although conscious, she was not aware of anybody in the room. At the doctor’s advice, she has been taken off all medication, she has stopped eating, and it is just a matter of time before she rejoins my grandfather in heaven. We love you Gram

    1. sorry about that. She isn’t very well today, doctors expect her to be gone by the weekend. My dad is taking this very hard, on one hand, he says that he wants her gone so that her suffering will soon end, and on the other, he wants her around because he loves her..

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