my day with celia jane and all she said and did...


mom and i brought grandma to our home to spend a few hours with us. she needs twenty-four hour care these busy days, and spends much of her time at my uncle's house, grandpa too tired himself to give the care he desperately wishes he could give.

this arrangement is not celia jane's first choice, but she is submissive and goes along {a sign of her angelic state according to my mom}. if celia jane could choose she'd choose to spend her days with her only living daughter, my mom.

as soon as she was helped into the passenger seat of the car she flipped down the visor and looked in the mirror--commenting that she did not have enough rouge on--that perhaps grandpa had forgotten it completely. we assured her that her cheeks were perfectly rosy.

then she wanted to clear up the accusations from the others that she supposedly sleeps with her jaw dropped open. she told us simply that grandpa is a liar on this matter.

she is aware and quite annoyed by the knowledge that grandpa and the others will be talking about her while she is gone for the afternoon. so we tell her that we will talk about them. she laughs. but just a little.

she misses her wide picture window at her own home. she misses sitting in her chair and watching the sky change color as the sun passes by {and she'll certainly miss keeping an eye on her neighborhood that over the years has become more criminal}.

her appetite is completely gone, and she talks most about this change. she doesn't even want cookies--this coming from a woman who always has a three-foot stack of cadbury chocolate bars in her closet and has rootbeer for breakfast. indeed, her appetite is gone.

when she does get a chance to be in her own home, she tells us that she slowly walks through each room, reminiscing: babies, kids, teenagers, farewells and welcome-homes, grandkids, birthdays, holidays, cooking, dinner, baths, homework, music lessons, dancing. we assure her that her house won't be sold any time soon. she still has time.

she's lost something, and she is deeply concerned: her tap-shoes are missing. whenever grandpa left the house she would turn on her music and dance around the house--freedom!

she's anxious that she'll have to get rid of many of her few belongings when they leave the house forever: her favorite blouses and blazers, hot pink shoes, and clip-on earrings. we tell her she can keep whatever she wants to, and she can pass on her rose dishes to granddaughters for safe-keeping and cherishing.

the drive is over. we're at our home. she is nervous about the two steps up to the door--shuffling her feet inch by inch and grabbing my arm tighter and tighter. this is a huge task. stupid stairs. after a couple of minutes we make it up the two steps and into the house.

we sit her down on the couch with a pillow behind her back so that the couch will not completely swallow her tiny body up. she wants to keep her coat on. we set a blanket over her and pull the space heater as close as possible.

while i make sugar cookies {heart-shaped} we turn on 8mm family movies for celia jane to remember. mom reminds her who the babies were, and points out celia's daughters who left us all years ago, leaving the earth before we were ready for them to go.

she loves to see everyone laughing. it makes her laugh. this is our families greatest trait: humor. humor is our forte.

we point out old homes and remember holidays long gone.

i walk in front of celia jane on my way to get more ingredients for our cookies. i hear celia jane "whispering" to my mom, "now, who is that again?" that's ann marie. she's visiting from california, remember? "oh. yes. i remember."
does she?
i try not to get discouraged that she has started to forget her grandchildren.

after a bit with the movies, she sits at the kitchen counter for lunch: grilled cheese sandwich, sliced and peeled apples, vanilla snack-pack, and a glass of milk. we hope she'll eat it.

slowly, she takes a bite here and there, telling us again how much she used to like food, but her taste buds are gone. after half an hour she has eaten only half her sandwich, a couple of apple slices, two spoonfuls of pudding, and she drank all of her milk. this is a lot. this is a big deal. she has eaten so much! a triumph. we are all beyond pleased.

she notices i'm wearing her old apron.
she still remembers even small things.

the three of us, three generations, move to the living room where the piano is to sing familiar songs. before we start she remembers to re-apply her pink lipstick that has rubbed off after lunch. then we can sing. grandma sings the melody. i sing harmony while trying to play the piano at the same time. she is patient with my mistakes.

we sing "then sings my soul..." as we do every time.
i can't help but think how this song must be the center of her funeral when we celebrate her simply amazing life.

we sing ten or so songs. it begins to snow, and celia interrupts our singing to wonder at it. "look at that!" her interruptions in awe of the snow are frequent.

it is often observed that as people age, they become like children again. usually we think of the physical care they require, and it's true they lose much control over their tired bodies and need constant care. but, i have noticed that as celia jane ages she is like a child in that she notices small wonders such as snow falling and how the sky changes color and how clouds make interesting shapes.

we sing some more: "then sings my soul..."

then, time to take her back to uncle's. we help her into the car, and she checks the mirror once more.

the clouds of snow have opened up and the sun gives her white hair a heavenly glow. angelic indeed. she notices the changing sky, and the wonder of the sun setting over the snow-covered valley.


Netti said...

I love this so much! So well written...and it reminded me of my Grandma's, both who are old and need care and miss their old lives.

PS. LOVE that apron!

bigBANG studio said...

this photo is one of your best portraits. just the tiny round edge of her tortoiseshell glasses, her white hair perfectly curled, her body in the passenger seat. old age, the struggle to take care of our elders, the struggle to stay beautiful in old age.

just beautiful, a-m.

tori said...

This was very well written; it was real and I could feel your emotion in each sentence. It was written with such precision and detail, and yet there was still enough room for the rawness to shine through. And that is what made it wonderful.

Please tell Cecilia Jane that she had great taste in aprons.

Kerry O'Gorman said...

Hello Anne grandma has now been moved to a home...nice but still a 'home'. I watch her and realize there is still some of her in there but not who I wish to see. Her mind is going and her memories are very scarce and mixed up. But I think your story about Celia Jane is beautiful and full of the little things which can make a difference to those in these situations. You are all lucky to have each other.Your pictures are lovely and Thanks for visiting my blog world...Kerry

Anonymous said...

this is beautiful--thankyou. I love what you see

Celia said...



Cassie said...

this is beautiful.

both of my grandmothers are gone. you're so lucky that you can still spend time with yours...

Julie said...

I am so touched by this.

I loved my grandmother and felt so close to her-it was hard to see her go.

Shoot, I am crying at work. Must regain composure!