A DAY WITH "GRANDMA"
December 24, 2000
First, here is a letter to all of you from Priscilla, whom I have called "Grandma."
I spent most of the day with Priscilla today. I have not used her name before (though I did a long time ago), because I felt I should protect her privacy. But she said today, "Honey, you can use my name anywhere." So she now has a name. We had a productive day.
It actually started, for me, a bit earlier. I stopped at the home of J, the woman I do one-to-one support. She needed a ride to the motel where she volunteers by cleaning rooms. I'm not sure why she is volunteering, but the work has improved her spirit immensely, though they are now taking advantage of her, insisting she work on Thanksgiving and Christmas, though they haven't paid her a cent. But she feels she needs volunteer work to put on her resume. The bus does not run by her house on Saturdays and it's a 2-3 mile walk (or more). I had some Christmas stuff for her, so I dropped that off and took her to the motel. She says she is going to be alone for Christmas, so I invited her to come and spend it with us. We still aren't sure if she's going to do that or not. (She's feeling nervous being alone and has called me several times today, and each time it's with three different decisions about what she needs to do on Christmas.)
After I left her off, I drove to P's house. She's my other one-to-one, and I had gifts for her, her new husband, and her daughter. I had been calling them all morning, with no answer. I was going to leave the packages with a neighbor, but it turned out the husband answered the door. I guess I woke him up. I didn't stay. Just left the packages and headed to Priscilla's house.
Priscilla was in a state when I arrived. She had been planning to spend Christmas afternoon with her imprisoned son, since she hasn't seen him for some time, and wanted to spend the first Christmas with him in a long time. Her brother promised to send her money so she could do that. But her brother had just called to say he couldn't send her the money after all, so she had been crying. When I came in, I told her about the generous contributions you have sent and handed her an envelope full of money. She threw her arms around me and thanked me (and you) over and over again. When we got in the car she told me that she was feeling like a new person.
She chattered like a magpie the whole day. We went to Target to look for shoes for her, but couldn't find any that would work for her. Instead, she found an outfit on sale that she could dress up in to wear to see her son. A bargain for $30. When we left there was a man taking a collection for a homeless shelter and she gave him some money, since, she says, she has a home and she wanted to help people who had no home.
Next we went to the supermarket and she bought all the things she needed for her Christmas dinner, and food for the kids next week. When I think that a week ago, she was having problems finding anything to eat at all because she had no food in the house, I know how much all the help you've given has been for her.
By the time we got back to the house, we were both exhausted, but had a good day. She decided she would get her neighbor to help her with the new bed frame. I have to admit I wasn't unhappy to hear that. I still had a bunch of things to do at home (I nearly finished the dusting--be still my heart), shopping to do, and Walt went out and bought a tree. Of course it's not decorated yet, but we don't want to rush things. We have a whole day before Christmas.
Tonight Garrison Keillor had the quartet currently playing in the Broadway revival of The Music Man. They sang "Lida Rose" and it got me all weepy. Paul's first big role was playing Winthrop in Music Man, a role he did twice (and later in the same show played Tommy Djilas). I also had a chat with my friend Mike, whose husband Bill died earlier this year. This is his first Christmas alone in a long time. We laughed and cried together.
I guess I'm just thinking about loss and change and how both can be sad and sometimes even happy at the same time.
This is turning into a very surreal Christmas for me.
As I was getting ready to post this, I heard the news that Victor Borge died. What a wonderful talent he was, and how much we enjoyed his performances over the years.