Family counts at all ages

Four years ago, when I was in high school, my grandmother moved in with my family.

I remember the day clearly. Our basement, now “grandma’s apartment,” was overflowing with her possessions from a life spanning many years.

There was her infinite collection of watercolour paintings, a multitude of native sculptures and a library of mystery novels.

To fit all these things into such a small space seemed like an impossible task but somehow we made it work.

Things have changed a lot since then.

I am now 20 years old and all the boxes have been unpacked.
I would not describe her living space as cluttered; everything has a place, save for a few canvases tucked behind the sofa.

There are paintings on the walls – many that she created – for every inch of available space.

Her home is best described as a gallery of her life; a seemingly sacred place seen when one descends down the stairs.

One area houses a king-size bed that made the trip from Cote St. Luc, Quebec and a kitchen table where at one time my father – her son – sat for dinner.

By the sliding doors is her drafting table, cups of brushes and bottles of paint.

She spends many hours re-creating the small collection of flowers she tends to outside just beyond the glass.

I could never lament my grandma moving in with us.

Although I am not home all the time, I value the presence of her wisdom.

I can talk to her whenever I want to; she is always there to listen with non-judging eyes.

The experience of having three generations under one roof is an invaluable one.

It is a practice seldom experienced in Western culture but followed like a religion in other walks of life.

There is an Chinese proverb that says: “If you have an elderly person in the family, it’s like you have a treasure in the family.”

If you look at Islam, the Quran addresses this issue specifically in this passage: “…be kind to your parents.
If one or both parents reach old age with you, children do not say to them a word of disrespect, or scold them, but say a generous word to them.

And act humbly to them in mercy, and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy on them, since they cared for me when I was small.’

With age should come respect, not disregard.

I hear stories of nursing homes and the systematic “storage” of senior citizens.

In fact, my grandmother has expressed to me on more than one occasion that she’d rather not be on this earth at all than suffer such a fate.

It is my intent to not let that happen.

She recently had an accident where she broke her leg. Unfortunately, her 82-year-old bones will keep her in the hospital for a few months, but she’ll be back soon enough.

It is my hope that she will remain in our home for the rest of her life.

It was not until she lived with us that I have grown close and learned about the loving, talented, creative person she is.
This woman who lives with us is not a tenant; she is a mother, grandmother, family.

Without her we are just a sketch; with her we are awarded a dynamic and vibrant life experience – the kind that you don’t fully realize until it’s gone.

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