From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul


You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Grieving deeply, Grandma Dunkle refused to sleep in her bedroom after Grandpa died. To everyone’s surprise, her four-year-old granddaughter, Robbi, adopted the mission of reacquainting Grandma with her king-sized bed again.

“Grandma, we sleep in your bed tonight,” Robbi would say.

“No,” Grandma replied, her eyes filling with tears. “Not tonight.”

And so it went, one weekend trailing after another during sleepovers, with Robbi’s plea rejected time and again.

One night, after changing into their pajamas, Robbi simply led her grandmother by the hand down the hallway to the master bedroom. Grandma paused in the doorway for a long while, tears welling up. Robbi jumped onto the bed and flipped back the covers.

“It’s all right, Grandma,” she said, patting the space next to her.

Like swallowing medicine whole to avoid the bitter taste, her grandmother quickly scooted under the covers. There, they held each other snug in the middle of the huge bed, where for the first time in weeks her grandmother slept without nightmares.

Through the wisdom and sensitivity of a child, a grandmother had taken the first tentative step toward a healing journey.

Once again, as a teenager, Robbi perched on the edge of the king-sized bed, caressing her grandmother’s hand. There were only a few months left. Robbi tended to her in those few precious months, massaging her with a wealth of love and tenderness. Studies and boys and other high school commitments were relegated to the back burner.

And for the second time in her life, Robbi’s heart broke when her beloved grandmother was laid to rest.

But it didn’t stop there.

As a young woman, Robbi, continues to make everwidening ripples within the older, more fragile generation. One can see her today as a college student working in a nursing home, changing a feeding tube, cupping an elderly resident’s hand while he reminisces, reading letters for eyes that can no longer focus.

And to think it all began with a four-year-old rising above her own grief to reach out and heal her grandmother.

Jennifer Oliver

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