Wally G. and I were talking about the future. You know, like, “What would you do if I went away? (a euphemism for dying.) I couldn’t imagine then what either of us would do without the other but I asked him first. “Why, I’d go to live with Wally K. and Nancy,” he said without hesitation. He and our older son who bore his name, had always been close.
“Oh, Wally, you wouldn’t do that!” (I thought of how his mother and my aunt had lived with us. How having older folks in your home changed things. How that would set with our daughter-in-law.) His answer though was quick and certain. “Why not? Why, I would be an asset to their home!” I had to admit, it was a darned good answer. Older people, especially, need to know their worth, not just feel they’re wanted but know they’re wanted, even needed. My mother-in-law, Gracie, had known that. She'd been sometimes feisty, sometimes an irritation, but always sure of herself. In spite of the drawbacks, she was an asset to our home. When both Wally and I were working, the kids, teen agers then, didn’t come home to an empty house. Grandma was back in her room and always ready to play a game of dominoes or rummy. She could tell stories about “the olden days,” or tune into the one TV in our house, hers, and always have a plate of cookies she’d made along with lemonade in her tiny fridge.
When the question turned on me, I said simply, “I don’t know what I’d do without you, Wally.” Then a few years later I was the one left when Wally “went away,” and I had to decide. We’d been living near Seattle, far from our sons who were in the Air Force and Navy, neither of whom would be long in one place. And I was far from our daughter in Southern California. She and her husband had little girls, two at that time and another later. Their business took them away evenings so that they had to rely on baby-sitters for the children. “Mom, won’t you move down here? You could find a place near us and it would be such a help if you could watch over the girls when we’re out at night.” Then she added those words that cinched the question. “Mom, we need you!”
Right now the youngest of my daughter’s girls, Katie, whom I’ve written about in my blogs, is living with me. She’s needed a home to get her life on track. Her mom with a new man, her dad with a new woman, have not been able to provide a place for this daughter. So, here I am, glad to be of help to my family, but still in my own home with room for Katie.
I wonder about how it will be when Katie moves out. Living alone is easy for me. I always have lots to occupy my mind and my time, but still it’s cozier to have someone you expect to come home at the end of a work day. Needing another who also needs you is good and couples that can live long enough with each other and who have a lifetime of memories to share, must be best of all. If I were to answer the question of “What would you do...?” now I’d say to Wally G, “I'm not going anywhere and I'm telling you, 'Stick around and don’t make me answer that! I need you, Pal! We can be an asset to each other!'”
Katie says, “Grandma, I want you to keep on living so if you ever need a home you can come live with Jeff and me! We’re going to have babies, I hope, and we’ll need you!” Yes, we old folks have a lot to share. If we can catch the great grandies before they get hooked on TV and computer games we can make our stories more fascinating than all the make believe artists can dream up in the movies and on TV. We can make their ancestors, their heritage, so vivid and alive through our true tales and old picture albums that in years to come they’ll know we were a real asset to their lives.
If you doubt that, just think what it would be like to have your great, great, great grandparents drop in now to tell you of their lives and paint their words so well that you can feel it, see it, be in it, as if on a holographic deck. Don’t hold your breath, but we may be coming to that. You'll really be needed then!