I woke up so early this morning. Millie was on my mind. Today marks five years since she left us. I miss having her at the head of the table, the person at the heart of every decision, the reason we made infinite number of choices.
Millie taught me:
• how to make ice tea
• how to cook
• how to write a thank you letter
• how to expect more from people
• how to talk to strangers
• how to ask for help
• how to advocate
• how to protect
The grandmother I grew up with and the woman I took care of for nearly seven years was not the same person. My grandmother version Millie was tough. She was no nonsense and had NO time for foolery. Grandmother Millie was impatient and on her own time line, there was no slowing down and no yielding. When she was displeased with you, oh wow, you absolutely knew it. You felt it. The entire house felt it. The pots and pans felt it.
I know I exasperated my grandmother Millie often when I was a child and teenager. It never really felt like she liked me until I went to theatre school. (later I learned that she was also a theatre nerd)
It wasn’t until after my grandfather died, after I became Millie’s caregiver, that our relationship truly blossomed. Several years ago I wrote about finding a new kind of relationship with Millie. “In between the moments of hostility, and sometimes for beautifully long stretches of time, there is a Grandmother who I never had. There is a sweet, gentle, doting, appreciative Grandmother who weeps with happiness when I bring her a small can of coke. There is a woman who will lean her head on my shoulder and snuggle in. There is a Grandmother who strokes my face as I tuck her in at night and begs to know if I love her.”
I would not be the person I am today without Millie. Years ago I probably never would have seen that, but the blessing of being a caregiver is that it gives you a chance to embrace missed opportunities.
(Millie went to the hairdresser every week so this image brings back instant memories.)