Gran

Gran

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Gran

A grandmother is a babysitter who watches the kids instead of the television.

Author Unknown

When I was a young mother my grandmother, who was lonely after my grandfather’s death, visited me every month for a few days. We’d cook together and talk, and she’d always babysit, so I could have time to myself.

By the time she was ninety-five, practically deaf and very frail, I was working part-time, and two of my three children were in school. Gran would come to our home on days when I wasn’t working. Once when she was visiting, my older children were in school, my eighteen-month-old was sleeping, and Gran and I were having coffee. I always felt protected and relaxed when we were together. Then I got a telephone call that there was a crisis in my office— would I please come in for an hour or two. Gran assured me that she and Jeff, the eighteen-month-old, would be fine, and I left.

As I drove to work, I panicked. I’d left my deaf, elderly grandmother with an eighteen-month-old she was not strong enough to pick up and could not hear if he cried. But Gran inspired so much confidence that I felt it would be all right. And perhaps, if I was lucky, my son would sleep the whole time I was gone.

I returned two hours later and heard happy sounds coming from Jeff’s room. He’d awakened, she’d dragged a chair next to his crib, and she was reading him a story. He sat there, enchanted by her voice, unperturbed by the bars of the crib that separated them. And our German shepherd lay at her feet, also completely content.

The drama of that day did affect Gran, who later admitted that communicating with an eighteen-month-old presented some problems. Unlike adults, if he’d needed something and wanted her to know about it, of course he couldn’t write it down. The next week she enrolled in a lip-reading course at a local college. The teacher was a young intern, and Gran was her only student. After the first session, the teacher made the trip to Gran’s apartment each week, so Gran wouldn’t have to travel to the college, changing buses twice. By the end of the semester, Gran’s ability to lip-read had greatly improved, and she felt infinitely more comfortable with Jeff and with the rest of the world.

Gran continued to communicate with Jeff in this way until she died, a few days before her hundredth birthday— leaving an unbearable void in my life.

Mary Ann Horenstein

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