September 9th was National Grandparent’s Day and I couldn’t let this month pass without remembering and honoring my grandmother, Beaulah, who we affectionately called Annie. For most of my early childhood, she lived across the street from my family and was one of my very first caregivers. Although she was my father’s aunt, she raised him as her own. She was also my protector and her home was my sanctuary. I knew that if I got in trouble with my parents, she would literally step in and tell my father to leave me be. And on the nights when we didn’t want to eat my mother’s cooking, my siblings and I would run to Annie’s house to partake of her pot of stewed chicken. I don’t know how she did it, but Annie could make small pots of chicken and rice stretch enough to feed five kids. Afterwards, we felt like we’d had a feast.
Annie was an integral part of my childhood. My siblings and I saw her every single day and we were constantly in and out of her house. I have so many fond memories of picking blackberries and pecans in her yard or spending rainy days sitting on her front porch and watching her weave baskets from marsh with half of a broken pair of scissors.
For years, Annie suffered with arthritis and she eventually moved in with us. Over time, she lost her ability to walk and care for herself. My mother bathed her, fed her and made sure she took her medication. I remember Annie had a bell she would ring if she needed anything and my mother would sleep on the sofa in the living room so she’d hear it. Annie required around the clock care and my mother was amazing with her.
Eventually, the strain of caring for Annie along with five children was too much and my parents placed her in a nursing home. They visited her every day and we kids went to see her every week. Even though she no longer lived with us, she was still an important part of our family. Annie passed away when I was in college, but to this day she remains an influential part of my life. Watching my mother care for her was my first real brush with primary caregiving. What I witnessed my mother do for Annie prepared me for the moment I became the primary caregiver for Catherine.
Whether you are a parent, a grandchild or the caregiver of an older person in your life that has positively influenced you in some way, let your loved one know every day how much they are appreciated. Caregiving is not just about giving physical care. It’s about giving emotional care and support, too.