I often ask God, Why? Why did He allow granny to develop Alzheimer’s? What did she ever do to deserve to be tormented so? To be slowly robbed of good memories and haunted by bad ones. To have her fierce independence stolen. Why? I still haven’t received an answer, and I continue my quest to make sense of it all. But, I’ve received some insight from the most unlikely of places.
Maybe your grandmother let go because she knew her job was done. She raised you, lasted long enough to see you reach some major milestones in your life, and she knows you’ll be okay, a colleague once said to me.
I’d never thought of it in quite that way. Great, but I still want my old granny back, I thought. Besides, I’m not done growing up. Although I’ll soon be thirty-one, granny still tends to treat me as if I’m twelve years old. Get home before it gets dark. It’s too dangerous for you to be out in the streets by yourself, she often says. I don’t make matters any better, because I still enjoy granny’s hugs, head and back pats, and pep talks. I constantly remind her that I will always be her little Jo-Jo.
However, my colleague’s epiphany made me reflect on the lessons granny has taught me through her words and actions. I began thinking of the ways in which she prepared me for this moment in time. How she prepared me to be the woman I am. How she taught me to be strong and independent. How she taught me to handle haunted lights.
Last weekend, the lights on the first floor of our house started flickering. Open-mouthed, I stood still and looked at a lamp in the living room, thinking Maybe granny was right. Maybe our house really is haunted. Granny continued watching Oprah, completely unaware that we were about to be casualties in another bad horror film. The flickering finally stopped after a few moments. I relaxed and continued making dinner. And then sudden darkness. The lights had gone out, and the refrigerator had stopped running. Great. Now all the food’s gonna spoil and I forgot to buy new batteries for the flashlights, I thought.
I immediately ran down the stairs to our overcrowded basement to play around with the circuit breaker. I tiptoed through the darkness, bumping into boxes and hitting my leg on the side of a bed full of old clothes I swear I will one day fit back into. I blindly felt around for the light switch, slid the wall panel open, and opened the circuit breaker door. After staring at the ten switches on the circuit breaker for a few minutes, I let out a tormented noise comparable to the one I made on my clueless first day of law school. Some switches had tape on them, placed there years ago by my tape-addicted granny. Some of the switches were facing in opposite directions from the others. Just black switches with random numbers on them. What the heck am I supposed to do now?, I thought. And then I remembered to look to the right of the panel, where I found two pages of notes in my granny’s handwriting. The notes were dated August 3, 1995. Fourteen years ago, granny tested every switch on the circuit breaker panel, figured out which electrical outlet each one controlled, taped the ones that weren’t being used, and wrote down her own little guide. She even noted which way to flick the switches to turn them on and off, and posted labels beside some of the switches to indicate which outlet they controlled. This was a God send. I breathed a sigh of relief and whispered, Thank you so much granny! I then flicked the switch for the haunted outlets until the lights came back on. Even the electrician, who came the next day, marveled at my granny’s electrical guide.
My granny has always been a rather impressive, independent, do-it-yourself woman. I’ve watched her lay tile, fix and tar roofs, peel paint from the ceiling, paint, and move refrigerators. And she left an electrical guide. I am nowhere near the woman she is, but I’m working on it.
Granny has spent my entire life paving the way for me and providing road maps to guide me on my journey. Even now, she continues to utter nuggets of truth and wisdom. At the most random moments, she’ll say something that makes me look at her and think, “Well, who told you to be the logical, sane one in the house? Where did that come from!” and then I say, Thank you granny and hug her. I still don’t understand why granny developed Alzheimer’s. I still think it’s one of nature’s injustices. But, I thank God everyday. I am thankful that I still have granny. I am thankful for the lessons she has taught me. And I am thankful for the lessons she still has to teach, and I still have to learn.
A friend recently asked me, Do you think your granny is still there?
Yes, she is, I replied. And what a woman she is!