“Things aren’t always as they seem,” I’ve often been told. Meeting a fantastic little lady in Paris, Illinois brought this point home to me.
“Grandma” is the only name I learned to call her. Perhaps it is only fitting, as love is at the essence of that title, and love is at the essence of this woman.
For more than fifty years she taught third graders in the heart of Illinois. Generations of men and women owe their knowledge of the basics to this woman. I never had the privilege of observing her in the classroom, but it is evident she was successful by the way she treats children with love and adoration now that she’s retired.
A few years ago Grandma suffered a severe stroke. It “robbed” her of some of her faculties. She has almost no memory whatsoever. It’s impossible for her to recall her daughter’s name, the grade in school she taught, or her husband’s birthday. I am told she could cook a seven course meal and have it all come out at not only the same time, but also the right time. Today she is unable to cook even a can of Campbell’s soup.
Her vocabulary and attention span have been reduced to that of a third grader or less. Her husband shoulders full responsibility for all the couple’s basic needs. All too many people look on and remark “What a pity. That poor old woman.”
Unfortunately these astute observers to not take time to get to know the real Grandma. The Grandma I met and have now come to adore exudes all that love is meant to be. She is incurably happy, blind to the depressing problems that face our society. Her laughter and smile contribute to her beauty, and she receives her energy from small children.
While dining out one Saturday afternoon, she continually was interrupting her meal to wink or wave or pat a small child nearby. At least once, in true miracle fashion, she calmed a screaming baby merely by her warm smile and friendly touch.
After just a brief observation I was in awe. She had not been stripped of a single faculty. Rather she had kept only the important ones: childhood, humor, laughter, and above all love.
It’s not a pity — it’s a blessing in disguise. If only we all could age so gracefully!