48: Grandma’s Words

48: Grandma’s Words

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

Grandma’s Words

My grandma’s words were full of wisdom. “You know, dear,” she was fond of saying, “you never stop learning.” You don’t? I wondered about this line a lot as a child. Never? Even when you are as old as she is?

Grandma was a great listener and wanted to hear all about my job as a kindergarten teacher. “You are a real teacher,” she would tell me.

Regularly she asked, “Tell me, sweetheart, is there anyone special in your life?”

I would tell her about the man I was dating and somehow her words would make me question. “Trust your heart,” she’d say. “Your heart knows.” And sure enough, when I took Grandma’s advice, no, he was not the one.

In her early nineties she moved into an assisted-living home. Her stories became the same story over and over, but just hearing her voice was soothing. It didn’t matter that I’d heard it all before.

She told stories of leaving Russia as a child, alone, sent by her father to join his parents in America. “I got out,” she said. “We had no idea what was about to happen. The rest of my family didn’t make it, but for some reason, I did.”

Her stories of those years were about eating her first orange on the boat, about her stern but kind grandparents in New York City, walks in the rain to the library. “I couldn’t get enough of the books,” she said.

The night Grandma had a stroke, at age ninety-seven, we thought that would be the end of her long life, but she lived another two years. The stroke left her unable to walk and talk. For the first time in her life my grandma was forced into silence. Visiting her was sad. I had never spent time with her in so much silence before.

“Hi, Grandma,” I’d say.

“Uhnnnnn,” was all she was capable of saying.

“My garden’s doing well but something got the peonies. Maybe deer.”

“Uhmmm, mmmmn, uhhh mmm,” she would mumble.

I would nod and say, “Yes... yes... that’s right,” here and there. I knew she was giving me advice about the garden. She murmured and muttered. I nodded and talked. My heart broke from missing her words, her voice.

The next summer, I met Andy. He became a great friend, and I was nothing less than thrilled when we began to date in earnest. I told him about Grandma and suggested we visit her. On the way to her nursing home, I filled him in as much as possible about her condition and her wisdom.

“Andy, she was always filled with the most amazing words. She could stop me in my tracks and really make me think. You have to realize that the woman you meet is not really her. All she can do now is sit and murmur. But know that if she could talk, she would be saying something really wise.”

“I understand,” he said, but still I felt he was about to miss out.

We found Grandma sitting in her room.

“Grandma,” I said, “I’d like you to meet Andy.”

She looked up at us, first at me, then Andy. She studied him for quite some time. Sometimes she looked at me like that, only to close her eyes and drift into a long nap. But this time she lifted her gnarled hand, a great effort for her, and gave it to him. As he held her hand she continued to look deep into his eyes for quite a while. I felt embarrassed. Would she never let go of his hand? Would she ever look away? Would it be okay for Andy to drop her hand? I was trying to think of words to break this awkward silence, but the most unlikely person found them first. In a loud and clear voice my grandma said to Andy, “Welcome to the family.”

Andy and I were married within the year.

~Laura Mueller
Chicken Soup for the Grandma’s Soul

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