The other day in between attending the temple and picking up a few things at the grocery store, I dropped by the nicest assisted living home in town to see my grandmother. Grandma Jacobs was, of course, happy to see me. We both enjoy our visits together. If I’m alone we sit opposite of each other so we can see one another’s faces. If one of the kids is with me, sometimes I will squeeze in right next to her and wrap my arm around her in a constant half-hug. Not unlike the many times I would snuggle any one of my babies close to my heart in a desperate effort to breathe in and capture their infant presence forever, I want to hang on tightly to my grandmother. A feisty and funny ninety something, she is ever hopeful that one of these days she will simply move from this life to the next in her sleep.

Because we lived so far away, my childhood memories of this grandmother are few, but wonderful. I remember that in order to promote literacy amongst her grandchildren, Grandma Jacobs used to send us a nickel for every book we read during summer vacations. (As I spent many a night curled up with a flashlight under my blankets long past my established bedtime, I really cleaned up!) When my family of eight did manage to make the long drive down to see them in their San Diego, California home, they took good care of us, often treating us to visits to the beach, Sea World or the San Diego Zoo. To this day I am still amazed that she never complained about the sand we must have tracked in to her meticulously clean house when we returned from our fun-filled days at the beach.

Our visits now are fairly routine. Grandma asks me one by one about everyone in the family and wants to know if I still like my job. She correctly notes by the almost constant yawning that occurs whenever I sit still for any length of time, that I don’t get enough sleep. She catches me up on any news from my extended family. Not unlike in the film Groundhog Day, both the questions and the news bear repeating. Sometimes over and over again.

Often something I say will trigger a memory and I watch as it transports Grandma Jacobs back to the distant past. As I listen intently, I will inevitably kick myself for still not having purchased some kind of voice recorder to capture the memories. Not unlike all the funny things I meant to remember about my kids when they are little, these stories may also vanish if I don’t hurry and write them down.

I have loved watching my grandmother bloom and flourish in this most recent place she has been planted, but it grows old on her now. Her husband and many of her friends have passed on. She wonders if my grandfather, who passed away four years ago, has forgotten to come back to get her as he promised. She recently explained to me that the reason she goes to bed at 8pm isn’t because she is tired, but because she is bored. She can’t see well enough to read or hear well enough for books on tape or TV. And while she makes a wonderful effort to stay active and involved, Grandma can’t help but wonder why she is still here in this place. One can only tolerate so much Solitaire.

During our last visit, she wondered aloud (twice) why she is supposed to keep taking all these expensive (and how!) medicines to keep her alive when what she wants most is to just go home.

I honestly don’t have an answer for my last remaining grandparent. But I am grateful she is still here. I cherish our time together. Grandma Jacobs is good for me. She’s one of the few people in my life who simply accepts me the way I am. Despite my many flaws, she lets me and my quick visits be enough for her. Such a rare gift. I need to understand how she does it, because I want to be like that when I grow up.

Do you still enjoy the influence of a grandparent or two in your life? What do you enjoy most about your relationship(s)? What life lessons can we learn from our grandparents?


  1. Blue

    July 29, 2011

    Dalene, get online and get one of these. My family each has one (the 4GB) and it has a Voice feature that will record hours and hours. We take it to piano lessons and record the teacher playing any new songs they assign. My daughter had to interview someone for a school project and used it to record the interview (3+ hours). It’s got amazing capacity, and so versatile. Plus it’s got Radio, MP3 (I have several audio books, pod casts, many hundreds of songs, the entire audio version of the Book of Mormon on mine). It’s tiny…I use it when I run. It’s affordable, and I recently got another one on in BLUE! 🙂 And it has a really long battery life (like about 15 hours in my experience) It would be just the thing to have in your purse to record your grandmother. We carry ours around for anything unexpected like that.

    I have never had a grandparent relationship like yours. One set died when I was very young. The other pair lived 3000 miles away (I saw them 4 times during my life before they died) and weren’t communicative (remember that long distance calls used to be very spendy, and there was no internet, so if you weren’t a letter writer, it was hard to be connected to people far away). So I have no experiences like yours. It is sweet to read about. I wonder how I’ll be as I get older. Seems so far away, but I’m half-way there(!)

  2. Christy

    July 29, 2011

    This is lovely.

    I have all my grandmas but no grandpas. It pains me that they may be gone before my baby girl is old enough to remember them. Grandmas are the best.

  3. Michelle

    July 29, 2011

    It is such a blessing to have grandparents this long, and I love how you are trying to soak it all in. My grandparents have been gone for many years now, and I still miss them.

    Having felt the love you had for your Grandma Jex, I think one of the reasons ‘it is enough’ for your Grandma Jacobs is because she knows that your love is genuine and deep. She’s blessed to have you.

  4. Deena

    July 29, 2011

    I love this. I’m sending the link to Genean.

  5. Melissa Y

    July 29, 2011

    I just recently lost my last grandma and am still weepy over it. There are so many mixed emotions with death when it comes after a long life.

    Thanks for the beautiful post.

  6. Kalli

    July 29, 2011

    My only living grandparent is my grandma, and she is m next door neighbor. I’ve lived close to her for most all of my life barring the 2 missions she served and my last year or two of high school.

    I love having her close, even though I’m sure we mutually drive each other nuts on occasion. She is really the only grandparent I have ever known. My other living grandma died when I was 14 and had Alzheimer’s for the majority of my formative years.

    As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized the importance of listening to her stories (even though I’ve heard the same ones over and over again) and making time to spend with her. She’s 88 this year and I have no doubt she’ll still be around for years to come. Because of her I know who my ancestors are, I know where I came from. I know she has a testimony because she lives it every day. I love my Grandma.

  7. mormonhermitmom

    July 29, 2011

    Oh my YES! Ask her questions about everything while you still have her! What games did she play when she was little. Where did she go to school. Who was her favorite teacher. Who was her least favorite teacher. Just ask her one question each time you go. See what happens!

    Encourage your kids to ask her stuff too. My favorite memories of my grandparents are the true stories they told me – especially the ones where they made a mistake and how they dealt with it.

  8. she-bop

    July 29, 2011

    Beautiful. Thank you.

    I visited my 96 year old Grandma yesterday. I had my daughter with me and I think Grandma thought she was me. She kept talking about what a great grandchild I was, and telling stories of our visits together. It was great. Some days she’s there, some days she’s not. It’s nice when she remembers things. She kept talking about me and Grandpa (he died 12 years ago). It was awesome. I need to get one of those recorders!

  9. Bethany

    July 29, 2011

    I remember having a similar conversation with my grandfather several years ago. I, with all the limited vision of a girl in her early twenties, stated I could not imagine ever wanting to die, even with old age. My grandfather, with the wisdom of eight decades backing him up, said “Almost everyone I love is on the other side. I would much rather be with them.” I guess that’s what they call perspective.

  10. Melanie

    July 29, 2011

    Definitely buy a voice or video recorder right away! I so regret that I didn’t capture the stories my grandma told. Fortunately she repeated her stories over and over (which was somewhat annoying at the time), but the repetition has helped me remember some of the details.

    My grandpa recorded his personal history on audio cassette in the late 70s using some manual or guide from the church. Several years ago I transcribed the tapes, and a few years later my aunt had the audio transferred to a digital format. The small details of his life – in his own words and voice – is one of my greatest treasures.

  11. Johnna

    July 30, 2011

    thanks for this. Like Melissa Y, I also lost my grandmother in the last year. I loved this description of her and your relationship.

    Great picture of you both, btw.

  12. Selwyn aka Kellie

    July 30, 2011

    I have three grandmothers. The one I’m closest to emotionally took ownership of me as soon as her son proposed to my Mum, when I was 8 months old. I didn’t find out until nearly 30 years later that we weren’t related by blood, but as far as we are concerned, we are. I’m her oldest granddaughter, and she tells people I get my red hair from her mother-in-law.

    My paternal grandmother (genetically speaking now) didn’t see me for 30 years. She saw me the Christmas just before I turned 2, then again when I was 32, with no contact, not a single letter or photo in between. She tells me every time we talk or write that it broke her heart. When she saw me again, she cried as she gave me the little red trike that was my birthday present… that she had kept and looked after for 30 years, hoping that one day she would be able to give it to me.

    My favourite grandfather died just before my marriage ended. It’s thinking of his love for me, and a dream of him I had in the thick of my separation, that gives me the courage and confidence to keep going.

    Life lessons from my grandparents? That love can be unconditional.

    I love that photo of you both.

  13. Barb

    July 30, 2011

    She is very good for you and you are very good for her. I worry that it will probably be so hard for her to lose her as you have allowed yourself to get so close and cling so tightly. However, you hopefully should be free of the regret of one who puts up the wall.

    I know someone who lost someone too soon who was in advanced dementia. She did not know her any more and I think was more at the child stage. However, she felt the loss so deeply as she felt like her Great Aunt still had love to give.

    Continue to cherish your time. We can’t do much to honor our deceased after this life in a way that we can in this life as far as a meaningful relationship goes or tending to their physical and emotional needs.

  14. Grandma Honey

    July 30, 2011

    You will miss her all of your life after she goes, but you will not have regrets since you take the time to visit with her.

    If I could have my Grandma back for just a day I would ask her question after question about her childhood, her challenges, struggles, health issues, her marriage, raising children. I think I would concentrate on one main topic at each visit. I would also try to schedule visits at a set time so she would have something to look forward to. My Grandma has been gone 27 years and I think of her every single day…especially now that I’m a Grandma.

  15. Melody

    July 30, 2011

    That photo is fantastic! What a treasure it will be in days to come.

    None of my grandparents is living. I never had the blessing of knowing either my maternal or paternal grandmother. And now, as I find myself becoming a Nana, I feel somewhat a sense of loss because I don’t have a concrete model for what a grandma is.

    However, I do have several good friends who are older than I am. I look to them from time to time. And I feel excited to grow into the kind of woman of whom someday it may be said . . .

    “She’s one of the few people in my life who simply accepts me the way I am. Despite my many flaws, she lets me and my quick visits be enough for her. Such a rare gift. I need to understand how she does it, because I want to be like that when I grow up.”

    What a gift she has given you. Thanks for sharing it, for sharing her. You’re wonderful, Dalene.

  16. Sage

    July 30, 2011

    Thanks for this beautiful post, Dalene. I love the photo too!

    I never knew my grandfathers, but had both grandmas until they were 98. But that was about 15 years ago. I wish my kids could have known them.

    I love how God gave us an overlapping family. These extra parents broaden our horizons!

  17. Paula

    July 31, 2011

    What a beautiful post! I have very vague memories of several of my grandparents. My dad’s father passed before I was born. His mother passed when I was 6. My mother’s father also died when I was 6 and her mother died when I was 13. Most of my memories come from her.

    I remember we would go every Sunday evening and see my grandmother in the nursing home. I remember the place smelling like old people but it seemed to vanish when we got to her room. There she would be, smiling at us. She wanted to know about our lives. She would tape my pictures on her wall. She would give us hugs. About once a month she would come to our house for dinner. I really loved that. I remember her calling me on my first day of jr high asking me how it went. I never told her how nervous I was, but she just knew. I will never forget how much that meant to me.

    Now that my mom is the same age as her mother when she died, I see many similarities. She wants to know details about the grand kids. She always smiles just like her mom. I hope my kids remember her. I worry about my 3 year old daughter. I know her memories of her will be vague but I hope she remembers how much her grandma loves her.

  18. Catherine A.

    August 3, 2011

    Dalene, this is such a sweet tribute to your grandmother. I lost my grandmother a year ago and I have really felt her absence. Like you, “she was good for me.” I’ve often wondered why, as I watch those we love age, lose memory, decline in every way. And I’ve come to realize, they linger for us – to remind us of the brevity of life, of the need to take care of each other, to value every soul. I hope, whenever it is, it is a gentle passing for your Grandma Jacobs. Thanks for your thoughts. They were beautiful.

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