Having grandparents past their eighties is a blessing, but with every year that passes, I feel their lights are beginning to fade out. My Internet-savvy 89-year-old grandmother no longer uses Skype or Facebook to connect with me. My husband’s 91-year-old grandma stopped her daily walks because she simply cannot do it anymore. My other grandparents try to remain active but their memories get easily confused and their increased dependence on others frustrates them.
It’s a painful process to watch. I know it’s inevitable but that doesn’t make it any easier, especially for their children, who face not only their retirement but also are caring for their parents at a time in which their own health begins to suffer. Healthcare costs rise exponentially and nobody wants to feel they are a burden to others, but the reality is that at some point nurses or aids become a part of daily life.
I feel so blessed to be able to enjoy these moments with our grandparents, even if my children cannot imagine how active, funny and hard-working they were because all they see are wrinkles, a precarious sense of balance and forgetfulness. The pictures I have of those brighter times will have to illustrate my stories and create a memory in their minds that completes the reality they see when they greet my grandparents. But even that is better than not being able to meet them at all. Because a fading light is still better than no light at all.
Every time I board a flight back from Chile to Miami my heart aches at the thought of never seeing my abuelita or my grandfather again. Every phone call in which I learn of a new ailment or a fall, distresses me and frustrates me since I live so far away that I cannot help in any way. Then I realize that no matter how dim their lights are right now, it will be up to me and my family to keep the beautiful memories burning bright, because every day we have spent with them is a gift in itself.
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