Don’t Become Useless Grandmother Wisdom: A Chronic Illness Blog
“Don’t become useless.” I could hear her need in the phone. Advice given in earnest. A wish to turn back the clock in her own life by imparting the only thing I can remember her telling my, her granddaughter, not to do. “I never should have retired.” This time her voice was a sigh. The force of her sentence deflated. She felt it was too late for her. She hung up to go watch her “stories.”
She was the grandmother I called. The one I considered. I only saw her a handful of times in my life but I called every week. I remember her long nails and hands that were sculpted by arthritis. I remember being baffled by her shame and horror when I found her prosthetic breast insert. That she treated me as a golden child even if my nose was a little large for my face.
It is funny as I am writing this I can remember feeling loved but her feeling of retirement is the conversation I can remember in the tightness of my chest. Don’t become useless, don’t retire. She died before I became really ill. Unhideable ill. Cane and wheelchair ill. I wonder what she would make of my life. I wonder if I could have helped her. If she could have helped me.
My fear of useless is a guiding force which has many sides. It can push and motivate me right over the edge of a cliff into yet another flare. But, I am not useless. Am I taking pride I n the correct things? I often wonder this when I watch my cats spend a gratifying day 95% spent asleep in sunbeams or watching what we here call ‘chicken TV’.
I am long retired from the job and business I built myself. I think she was proud that her granddaughter started a company and made her own money. She even stopped asking about the men in my life’s financial situation. She felt very modern in her certainty that I would find a way to take care of myself. At least that is what my faulty brain has tried to remember.
We leave lasting impressions in this world with actions or statements we do without thought. The only thing I have ever seen of my great grandfather’s was a to do list. I am sure he would have curated a different impression of his existence if he could. I am sure my grandmother would not have remembered that exact phone call. I do not know why that is the one I remember. We never get to choose what we leave in the hands of those we touch.
I endeavor to be useful.