My Grandma Hollywood can no longer read or drive. Though she lives independently, she must wear an Emergency Response System and she requires daily check-ins from family. Recently she fell while taking out the trash and she had to wait 10 minutes before mustering up enough strength to crawl back to her porch. One of the hardest realities of her 90 years is that she has outlived her husband, her son, dozens of friends and family, and her ability to engage in hobbies such as knitting, crocheting, crossword puzzles, needlepoint, and dancing. With the help of hearing aids, she can listen to music and books. But listening will never replace engaging.
My Grandma Hollywood will tell you that she's ready to go. She wants to be in Heaven with her husband, her son, and the mother she never met (her mother and twin brother died when my grandma was born). Selfishly I pray that my grandma has another 20 years. But that's not Grandma's prayer. She is at peace with her life. She is not afraid to die. She welcomes eternity with open arms.
Us grandkids joke that we need to keep procreating so that Grandma Hollywood has another great-grandbaby to live to see.
One thing Grandma Hollywood refuses to give up is her ability to crochet dishcloths. Many many years ago my grandma could turn yarn and thread into beautiful clothing, blankets and wall hangings. With what little mobility she has left in her hands and with just enough of her diminishing mind still intact, she manages to crochet dishcloths from memory. Every single visit from Grandma Hollywood is accompanied by a set of surprisingly well-stitched dishcloths.
And though I've collected dozens of Grandma's dishcloths, I won't throw the old ones away. Occasionally one will shred so badly that it no longer serves a purpose, and I sadly retire it to our compost. But that's the absolute last resort.
You see, each time I wipe a hand or scrub a counter, I think of my grandma. With every rinse from the crocheted work of my grandma's crippling hands, I remember my childhood. My obsessive use of these sometimes crooked-stitched cotton rags has little to do with cleanliness and everything to do with a love that only a granddaughter can feel from her beloved grandma.
You see, I refuse to part with these silly things because one of these days Jesus might decide it's finally Grandma Hollywood's time. And I don't think she can send me dishcloths from Heaven. Sure, I'll still know that she loves me unconditionally, but it won't be the same as kissing her thinning cheek or watching the attendant wheel her from the gate as I meet her at the airport or seeing joy overcome her as she hands me a stack of dishcloths that she proudly made using all her remaining memory, muscle, and might.
There's simply no replacement for the tangible love of my Grandma Hollywood. And I'll cherish every last darn dishcloth just to feel it.