Let's just start by saying...my grandma is not your average Ethiopian/Eritrean grandmother, in fact, I wouldn't even call her your average Western grandma. Nope! My grams is a pure diva- strong, elegant and full of sass.
Growing up, Grams played a significant role in my life and helped raise me while my parents were going through a separation. She taught me how to pray, how to eat like a lady, how to correctly put face cream on and most importantly the value of understanding tomorrow is never guaranteed.
A couple of months ago, Grams got sick and came to the U.S. from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. To say she was not happy to be back here is an understatement. She could never get accustomed to our fast pace life. She first stayed with my aunt, then was hospitalized for some time before moving to a nursing home (which she absolutely hated) and finally, we were asked to take her in for a couple of weeks until she got well enough to go to Asmara, Eritrea.
I owe Grams so much, yet I was selfishly worried about her staying with us. As you know by now, I like to plan and have everything structured so naturally, I was afraid of what was coming. I was worried about the amount of work it would be to tend to an elderly person (even though my aunt came from Eritrea to help and hired nurses to decrease our work load). I was still terrified about how our lives were going to be impacted. Writing this now, I feel so ashamed to even think it. Here was a woman who not only gave my mother life but took us in when we needed it 25 years ago with no questions asked. Placed me in the best school Addis Ababa, Ethiopia had to offer when my parents couldn’t afford it and made sure I had everything I needed.
However, the one day I’m given a chance to repay her kindness, I struggle internally with it.
Today, as I’m writing this, I keep thinking of the day Grams came…
She was so happy to be here with my family and me. To be around the children and not in a nursing home where she knew no one. I was glad to see her smile even though she still had a million things to say about her accommodations. She drove us all crazy from the first day until the day she left; she called us names and never listened to anything we said. She would often not cooperate with the physical therapist and nurse which meant that when I came home everyone was in a bad mood and I would have to walk on eggshells around them. Do you know how hard it is to walk on eggshells around people in your own home?
The two months were HARD, to say the least but even with all her feistiness and attitude by the end of the first week; I was happy she was here. It allowed me to give back to the woman that helped raise me and it gave my children a chance to spend time with their great grandma and learn from her.
She loved telling them old stories about us and her glory days. She loved praying with Isabella (like she did with us when we were kids) and she adored playing with Novena. She always fought with Lorenzo who questioned her all the time and told her he was the smaller version of her father (Lorenzo was named after Grams father). So, for all the times I got upset at our situation, seeing how happy she was here with my kids and seeing how they were her medicine made me forget about my problems.
The moral of this post is that in the beginning, I was so focused on myself and what I was going to have to face by taking care of Grams that I didn’t realize what a blessing it was to have her here. I think we do that way too much. We bring bad vibes towards ourselves by thinking of the negative impact instead of the positive gains. Yes, she drove me nuts almost every day; Yes, our schedule was disrupted, and we all had to adjust; Yes, there were always guests in my house which meant I couldn’t relax at home… But looking back now, WHO CARES!! These things are all momentary; the kids weren’t hurt because they didn’t go to bed on time, or because dinner wasn’t served at 6 pm. I wasn’t hurt because I had to stay awake some nights to tend to her. Nope, the opposite in fact happened. She blessed us! Every time she realized she was a pain in the ass, she looked at us and said “Thank You… God Bless You girls”.
No matter what is going on in our lives, we have a choice; a choice to focus on the positive or the negative.
I always say this, so I hope you aren’t rolling your eyes- BUT- LIFE IS NEVER GUARANTEED. We only have one chance at it, so why not be happy, focus on the positive and show love instead of hate. This was probably the last time Grams will ever come to the U.S. and maybe even the last time we see her so to know that she has good memories with us is a great feeling. Even better though, is that my kids have good memories with her. She taught them culture, language, love, respect, and faith. I hope this is something they hold with them forever.