Of Paints and Pom Poms

Of Paints and Pom Poms

We spent some time with old friends and I wanted to remember specific moments like the way her bracelet became a prism and filled the car with rainbows. Singing tribute to Tom Petty on echoing cobbled streets. The lighthouse in the old harbour. The smell of his tyropita the moment it is removed from the oven.

I found that trying to remember exact moments caused memories to run together like watercolours. This time with old friends became part of the artwork that we have been creating for many years.

It’s a beautiful picture.

So I began to reflect on the artwork hanging in the mind of my Grandma. After 99 years the blending memories must be stunning.

As I stated in an earlier blog that you can read here:  Of Symmetry… I’ve learned a lot from Grandma. She isn’t the “Sit down now and listen as I have something to teach you” kind of grandma. What I learned from her was through observation and casual conversation.

Grandma—or “Gram” as I call her—and I became close in my adulthood. She was never the cookie-baking-crawl-on-the-floor-and-play-dress-up-grandma so as a child I tended to watch her from afar.

She was the knitting grandma. I didn’t know that other kids got their slippers and hats and scarves and mitts from department stores. I took it for granted that everyone received every year a bundle of warm woolen goods in their favourite colours, complete with pom poms and embellishments. As an adult I learned that she knit blankets and tiny hats and mitts and socks for preemies with a local charity.

And I learned that arthritis and macular degeneration, like the loss of a limb, robbed her of her ability to knit.

Visiting Gram as an adult and listening through her words into their meaning, I gathered wisdom that I will pass on to you. Take it or leave it as you please, just as Gram would expect you to do.

Lesson 1: Respect your limitations without limiting yourself.  Although Gram couldn’t knit anymore or see very well to read, she told me once that if she thought about what she couldn’t do anymore it would just break her heart so she chose to concentrate on what she could do. She could read, for instance, in the morning light at a certain table in the window. She listened eagerly to stories of my travels although she couldn’t go where I had been. She maintained a curiosity of new technologies even when she didn’t fully understand them.

Lesson 2: Tell the truth. But embellish when necessary. Do it to tease or to reassure, depending on who is listening. Spin a good yarn. Storytelling is like knitting—your finished product is still a hat but the yarn should be colourful and there should be a giant pom pom on the top.

Lesson 3: Remember who you are and keep track of family. Gram recited the family tree every night before bed, from root to newest leaf. She didn’t want to forget who belonged to who on every branch, including the ones who were detached. Unbelievable to me, she knew the name of every cousin and every cousin’s kid in both directions, including the dates they were born.

Lesson 4: Tell your secrets to the one you trust.

Lesson 5: It’s the little things that matter. When she was sick and in hospital, her back was sore from the position in which she was propped. The food they gave her was sweet, likely to add more calorie content to her diet. Between her back and her taste buds, she was at the end of her patience. A pillow under her knees and a can of tomato juice made all the difference in the world.

Lesson 6: Count your blessings and enjoy the view no matter the size of the blessing or what you’re looking at.

Lesson 7: Live simply.

Lesson 8: Tell it straight. You may not like giving or receiving bad news, but it has to be done. When Gram could no longer live alone in her apartment and was in hospital, it was determined that a nursing home was next. I told her. She said, “I don’t like it.” I said, “I don’t like telling you.” She said, “Alright, then.” The end.

Lesson 9: Set a goal and shoot for it. She once spent a day determining how to change the batteries in the wall clock running slow. The last time she had done it, she climbed on a chair, told herself, “Don’t look left or right as a fall will be the end of you.” Wiser since a later fall, she decided the best course of action was to take the batteries from the drawer, place them on the table and ask her next visitor to set the clock for her. The next day her goal was accomplished. Gram also has the goal to reach 100 years of age. She has absolutely no control over it but I believe she will do it. No matter your limitations or control over your situation, have something to shoot for.

Lesson 10: Lie down. Sometimes enough is enough and a nap is in order. There are times when loneliness, sadness or grief overwhelms you and no amount of positive thinking will clear the storm clouds in your heart. Gram says when that happens to her, she lies down and waits for it to pass. Usually sleep presses reset.

So there they are: 10 things I have learned from observing the oldest person I know and which have made me wiser than I was before. I share them with you.

In life we all paint our own picture—or knit our own hat—with our memories. May your paints always blend beautifully and your hats be embellished with pom poms—in your favourite colours.

Have you learned lessons from someone special in your life?  Can you add to my list?  I would love to hear from you.  Comment, share, follow.

 

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2 Replies to “Of Paints and Pom Poms”

  1. Really enjoyed that Lori! You painted a great picture of who grandma really is. But she told me she wanted to reach 101. 😜

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