Frozen Water . . . Melted Hearts

Frozen Water . . . Melted Hearts

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Frozen Water . . . Melted Hearts

Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.

Theodore Isaac Rubin

When my grandmother repeatedly left pots of water on the stove, dangerously simmering away unattended, the reality was there. The time had come to move her to an assisted-living facility.

It ripped our hearts from our chests to move this usually sweet but now angry woman into her “new home.” I reassured myself, She is forgetting too many things and could really hurt herself or others.

Back at her house we began the arduous task of cleaning her home of twenty-seven years. I was given the assignment of cleaning the refrigerator and freezer. So many memories of life with my grandmother flooded my mind: Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, summers canning fruits and vegetables, and special times spent delivering home-cooked meals to those in need.

I was jolted from these pleasant memories when I discovered thirty tiny juice bottles filled with frozen water. More evidence of my grandmother’s senility. Not wanting to add to my aunt and uncle’s heavy heart, I quickly threw them in a large trash bag. It must be tough seeing your own mother slowly losing her mind, I said to myself. I don’t like seeing it either.

A protective covering formed over my heart as I completed my assigned task. Like the ice lining the freezer, I hardened my heart so the pain would not overtake me. I heard laughter coming from the other rooms of the house as family members cleaned and reminisced. Those sounds that for years fittingly filled my grandmother’s home now seemed out of place. “How can they laugh at a time like this?” I murmured as I shoved the last item into the plastic garbage bag.

My mind drifted to the memories of my grandfather, who had passed away several years earlier. Grandmother doted on him. After he died she turned her attention to her children and grandchildren. I always enjoyed going to Grandmother’s because she knew just what each grandchild liked to eat. She lovingly prepared our favorite dishes and placed them in the freezer just in case we came to visit.

Smiling at the recollection, I headed for the door, wanting to leave with a good memory fresh in my mind.

Before going to our own homes, my sister and I stopped at Grandmother’s new one to visit her. Before we left she showed us pictures of her beloved home and garden. In an almost therapeutic way she shared stories of the people in each photograph—when suddenly she halted. She stared at a picture of herself and a large man with dark skin standing by her rose-covered trellis. With a wrinkled forehead and set jaw, she turned to me, demanding, “Who’s taking care of Melvin?”

“Who’s Melvin, Grandmother?” I asked, almost afraid of the jumbled answer to come.

“He’s the garbage man. I always leave a frozen bottle of water for him, tied to the post by the garbage can. Somebody needs to take care of him now that I’m gone.”

My heart melted. While we thought she was forgetting important things, she was still remembering the most important ones.

Cheri Lynn Cowell

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