My Grandma hopes to move into an independent living place that is attached to an assisted living place. We checked it out last spring and loved that it had a movie theater and yoga classes, but mostly we love it now because two of my Grandma’s sisters live there. For now she’s on the waiting list and the waiting list isn’t budging. That means she stays in her home of so many years and doesn’t really get to know when things will change.
Maybe this was the last Christmas Day in that house, maybe it wasn’t. We don’t know yet, and still I tried to decide if I should cry or not. I went downstairs, to the basement with the ping pong table, by myself at one point and stood looking around. I could hear the mumbling of conversation above me, through the floor. An occasional burst of laughter and the stomping quick-feet of the many kids. We have spent so many hours down in that basement, my cousins and my sister and I. Until the year we got our first Nintendo anyway, we played ping pong so much of the time. Then it was Duck Hunt and Mario Bros in the kitchen on the small TV so people could still watch the other TV in the living room.
Puzzles and cribbage, lefse and lutefisk. Cookies and Uncle Tom’s pumpkin pie.
Glasses with Smurfs on them, even those still exist at Grandma’s house right above the homemade bread.
I wanted to cry because when life starts to shift, that’s what I do. And I wanted to cry because the truth of the matter is that this house will one day be forgotten. Just like we have no idea what life was like for the generations long before us. We only catch glimpses through spoken memories or an occasional uncovered old photo. I want to remember. I want my kids to remember. So I want to cry, but then I’m struck with the idea that this house and all of its times are in all of us, moving forward in time, always.
My Grandpa was always in the same chair, reclined mostly and often snoring. The house isn’t the same without him in it with Grandma, but it’s still the same house with all of the memories of all the years. My Dad lived in that house when he started dating my mom. High school sweethearts. He walked to school and now Grandma still walks downtown, just three blocks or so, for her mail and for groceries.
One year my Grandma threw the Christmas tree right out the front door and onto the lawn, ornaments flying here and there. That’s another story but what it tells you for now is how you really shouldn’t mess with my Grandma but you should know her because she’s wise and full of joy despite all odds.
We’re going to miss that house, its wood floors, the clothes chute and that basement wall we were allowed to imprint with the sides of our ping pong paddles. We don’t get to know right now when it is that we’ll be in it for the last time, and that’s okay. Grandma, wherever you are, that’s where we’ll go.