Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lessons My Granny Taught Me

I'm at my parents, preparing to stay here for two weeks while they take a much deserved 50th wedding anniversary vacation across Canada by train. Originally I was to be here to take care of my Granny, who until recently lived with them, but Alzheimer's and other illnesses have taken so much of a toll on her that she is now in a nursing home and receiving hospice care, so my role now is to visit her each day, enjoy the precious time I have left with her even though she doesn't fully remember who I am, and take care of whatever needs to be done if something were to happen to her while my parents are away.

I've realized all along that so much of who I am in general, and of what makes this journey towards a sustainable lifestyle seem attainable to me, is because of my Granny. Words written by someone like me, with no great skill at translating raw emotion into something that allows someone else to understand those feelings, don't begin to describe what she means to me. She is the person who taught me what unconditional love and support really feels and looks and sounds like. She is the one who showed me that women can be both strong and nurturing.

I read today in Plenty/The 100 Mile Diet, about how many people are now many generations removed from raising and preserving their own foods and being close to and aware of their food sources. It made me realize how blessed I am to have the knowledge that it can be done: My Granny, alone, tilled, planted, tended, and harvested a garden twice the size of her home, fed some of those foods to her family just minutes after harvest, and preserved others through canning and freezing to eat throughout the year. I remember the soil, brown and rich enough to tempt my toddler brother to eat it. I remember the pantry off the carport, its shelves to the ceiling filed with double rows of beans, beets, tomatoes, apple butter, jelly, the chest freezer, big enough to drown in, stocked with everything from bread she had gotten on sale to meat from a local farmer/butcher.

I grieve that there is so much of this that she can no longer remember. I regret that I never had any interest in learning these skills from her when she had the strength and memory to teach them. It makes me intensely determined to remember for her. I want to work towards having a garden that is large and diverse enough to provide much of my family's sustenance and stop making excuses about being too busy; after all, she did all of the work on hers after long days of factory work, still caring at various times of her life for three children, or a sick husband, or a dependent daughter and granddaughter. I want to learn to can, to someday see shelves in my basement lined with beets and beans and apple butter.

I want her to look down from the heaven that she's been ready to go to for several years now, the heaven where she believes her beloved brothers and sisters are waiting for her, and see that the lessons that she taught with her life were not lost.


Verde said...

Bless you as you care for your Grandmother at the end of her life. It speaks well of her that you are there when the disease is so hard to be around.

I too had a wonderful Grandmother and some of the same regrets - though she wasn't interested in teaching what she was sure would be far outdated skills. So, I am learning as well.

There is a whole group of us trying to reclaim that wisdom of our passing Grandmothers.

Chile said...

That was a beautiful tribute to your Granny. And I think Verde is absolutely right that there is a whole new generation trying to catch up on the knowledge of the past. I'm amazed at how many young folks are talking about knitting, crocheting, canning, and preserving food. It gives me hope.

LisaZ said...

Nice post. Today, June 13, is my Grandma's 90th birthday. It is great that we can celebrate our grandma's and all the wisdom they have, even if they thought we'd never use it. I know I for one have always wanted to be just like my grandma!

Lisa in MN