The Planning That Really Matters or Saying Goodbye To My Grandmother
October is the month of Not Planning. Look how well it’s going. I have no blog posting plan, so I’ve practically not posted at all! Actually, I want to tell you about where I was this past weekend and about how planning helped in some ways and didn’t matter one.tiny.bit in the most important ways.
I was in Alva, Florida helping my dad go through my grandmother’s house to get it ready for sale. Nanny’s body hasn’t left us yet, but her mind has been steadily slipping out the back door for years now. Her dementia is finally bad enough that she can no longer make it by with sporadic care in her home, but rather needs to live at my aunt’s for full-time care.
Some serious planning kicked the shit out of our to-do list. In just 2 days we sold almost every bit of furniture in her house and got it moved out. We drove a pick-up truck bed full of stuff to my uncle for a garage sale and another load to The Salvation Army. We cleaned out every cabinet, every drawer; and, we met some seriously wonderful people.
My theory is that older people who have been retired for awhile (and Florida is chock-full of these) go one of two ways – crotchety and out of touch with their younger selves or more peaceful and aware of what really matters in life. Three women who fell into the latter category really stuck with me.
I met Pearl, who I want to be just like when I grow up. This 80 year old woman was hoisting a dining room chair over her head, backing her truck up the driveway, and crawling around under the dining room table to see why the leaf was stuck. Her daughter and son who I met later said she was “The best mother in the world and we would literally do anything for her.” What a legacy!
I met Bernadette, who came back a second time and who said if she had known she would meet me she would have brought over some homemade chicken soup, but it was past mealtime at that point. She later messaged me about a flight deal because she wanted me to be able to get the best airfare possible.
And, I met Anna who had prayed that morning to God to help her with her finances. She couldn’t even afford to buy dishes and her daughter was coming for dinner the next day. Guess what we had in spades? Dishes! Sweet Anna left with more Corningware than 3 families could ever use.
Which brings me to the planning that mattered not one bit. My grandmother had boxes of photos and cards she had saved over the years.
I saw my grown cousin Tommy’s wobbly little boy writing in notes he had sent her years and years ago. I saw the pictures from when my grandmother got her nursing degree at the young age of 52. I saw the anniversary cards from her husband Jerry. They were meticulously organized, grouped by holiday, and stored with little Post-It notes on them to remind her of the situation surrounding their giving.
And Lord, did she have some glassware! Martini glasses, wine glasses, margarita glasses. Purchased with the idea of rip-roaring retirement community parties, I suppose. Shoes, purses, clothes…
And not one bit of it goes with her. She can’t use any of it now. These things that she surrounded herself with, planned for, poured her time into organizing and dusting/caring for over the years, they’re boxed up. Or trashed. They’re gone.
That’s how it will be for all of us. Planning helps. It helps us get things done while we are living. It helps us care for the people who depend on us. It’s important. It really is. But also important is to realize that some of our planning and busyness is just to distract us from the fact that we will all be there someday. We will all be reduced to just ourselves. No stuff allowed. And there is no planning for that.
I want to be a Pearl, or a Bernadette, or an Anna. Maybe that’s a more important sort of plan. More of a forest than the trees view. I want to get to Nanny’s age and have my children be able to say “She is the best mother ever and we would literally do anything for her.” I want to bring you homemade chicken soup if you are in need of comfort. And I want to remember to take time to say my prayers.
These little busy plans I make – they are important in some ways, they really are – but I can’t take them with me.