Iíve learned many things since I began taking
care of my 85-year-old grandmother three years ago. I know which
supermarkets offer senior citizensí discounts on which days of the
week. I know which drugstore has the most helpful pharmacist, and
which beautician will fix my grandmotherís hair just the way she
likes it. But one of the most important things Iíve learned isnít
really about caring for my grandmother; itís about caring for
myself. Iíve learned the value of true friendship.
When my grandmother moved here to Georgia from
her home state of Michigan in order to be nearer to me, I knew my
busy life was about to get busier and more chaotic. I have a
full-time job, two teenagers and (thankfully) a very supportive
husband. My plate was already pretty full.
I had long since given up on finding the time to
do volunteer work, appeasing my pangs of guilt by donating clothing
to my local battered womenís shelter and writing a yearly check to
the American Cancer Society. I quit making excuses for not getting
to the gym, and finally let my membership lapse. I made peace with
the fact that my house may not be immaculate at all times, but is
pretty clean most of the time. But one thing I always made time for
was my girlfriends.
Going out to lunch with the girls was something
I looked forward to. Our shopping trips and movie nights kept me
sane. Even if we just met at the park for a quick walk, I always
felt better and more relaxed after Iíd spent time with them.
My grandmotherís arrival changed things. It was
difficult for me to make last-minute plans with my friends, and I
often had to cancel even long-standing dates if my grandmother was
ill or had an appointment that couldnít be rescheduled. I couldnít
linger on the phone with my pals as often, and leaving town for more
than a day or two required elaborate arrangements and planning. For
the first time in my life, I found myself buying greeting cards that
read ďHappy Belated Birthday.Ē Weeks or even months would go by when
the only contact I had with some of my friends was a hurried email.
But there was also Paula, who sat me with me in
the dingy hospital waiting room while my grandmother had surgery,
and who spent an entire Saturday helping me paint my grandmotherís
bedroom the perfect shade of yellow. There is Pam, who leaves funny
messages on my voice mail, even though she knows I may not get to
call her back for a while, and who volunteered to take my
grandmother to an appointment when I had a meeting I absolutely
couldnít miss. What would I do without them? I donít even want to
know. As the song goes, I get by with a little help from my
My grandmotherís taught me a lot over the
years. My friends have taught me even more.
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