It began with a slip in the kitchen on an unremarkable day in the unremarkable second week of November. My grandfather helped my grandmother up, using their combined strength to lift her body. She stood and pressed against her back. It hurt. She returned to the task of making supper: cornbread and cabbage, dried beans and rice. None of us would realize it or even see it coming, but everything had changed. It would begin with pain, then a series of shots and doctors, the loss of appetite, the inability to stand, talks of surgery— a fractured back. Then a list of high powered pain meds would begin to dull my grandmother and create a shell of pain and need. The lines of her former self were blurred until it was hard to see the spark of the strong woman I named my daughter after—a matrilineal link. My grandfather met the moment. He learned to do the laundry and load the dishwasher and grocery shop. He would walk along with her on days she felt strong enough to use a walker; carried her when she didn’t. He truly lived love when it was the hardest. He did all he could to preserve the normalcy of their life.
Finally, my grandmother made it through surgery in late February and there would be rehab and optimism. On the fifth day of her hospital rehab stay my grandfather had a stroke. He was alone on the floor all night. Twelve hours with a time-is-of-the-essence stroke that left him paralyzed on his dominant side. Life as it was was over.
Last week I took Baby L and walked around in the yard of their quiet house, looked at the sun catcher I gave my grandmother hanging in the kitchen window, noticed the sawdust on the porch where my grandfather had just finished his last project. Old bulbs in the yard were making their way through the top soil. Flowers were blooming.
Here we are in a March that is remarkable only in that it will be when life changed. When a constant became a memory. When pictures from last spring took on a glow of forever being frozen in time. They have both worked hard to improve over the last two weeks and time will tell how much life will get back to some sort of normal. For now we all hold on to hope as only love and the coming of spring can encourage. Hope— just four fragile letters that mean everything.