This is How I Know What Love is

We learn best from example and the truth is the best lessons I’ve learned are always from people older than myself.  My big sister coupons, bakes and really is good at giving a good meal to her family and whoever swings by.  I learn how to manage my house well through watching her.  My grandpa, Yeye, he taught me a good amount about discipline.  Before he passed, Monday through Saturday, I watched him an old man, go out for a walk everyday.  He would walk for over an hour daily up until he was 97.  When I don’t feel like exercising, I often think about him.

In the last years of my grandpa’s life, he was probably grumpier (#1, #2, and #3) than ever.  Physical decline, the feeling of worthlessness, a difficult past all built up in my grandpa.  Though I understood a part of his struggle, his anger still had consequences. It was tough living in a room next to him.  I remember sleeping in bed, tense and holding my breath at times, as I would overhear his frustration about being old, wanting to die, etc.  His words were heavy and because my grandma, Mama, would listen, he often directed his anger at her.  At the time I was a recent college grad and though a wall separated me from my grandpa’s frustration, it still affected me emotionally. It really did. So much so, that when my grandparents visited my aunt for a few weeks, I moved my room down to basement after years of living next door.   What really broke my heart was when I could hear my grandma crying.   Sometimes I’d hear it at night in a soft whimper and other times I would be downstairs in the kitchen only to hear my grandpa’s anger flare in a second.  A few minutes later, you could hear my grandma crying softly in the bathroom.

Our family would often try to do what we could to protect my grandma from Yeye’s anger.  When Yeye had a stroke, we moved him to an assisted living as he no longer was able to walk up the two flights of stairs to his room.  We strongly encouraged Mama to consider staying at home with my sister’s family and myself so she wouldn’t be the only one victim to Yeye’s anger.  I vividly remember hearing that, Mama, with no hesitation and in a genuine manner, told us that until her husband died, she would stay with him.  And so, when Yeye moved to the assisted living, she did too.  Though there were no hearts flying, no romantic songs, no good feelings, this is how I know what love is.

Perhaps the moment that sticks with me the most was the day before my grandpa passed.  I had gone to visit my grandparents at the assisted living and Yeye was unusually weak. He could not get up on his own.  Upon entering the room, I remember seeing Mama facing Yeye, at under 5 feet, trying to pull my grandpa up.  She was 97! With his arms holding hers, he was able to sit up.  She held a cup out for him so he could vomit and since she had no other hands, she used her head to prop his head up.  Another time during that visit, she helped Yeye up again, her head again propping his, and she again held a cup, this time so he could pee into it since he was too weak to make it to the bathroom.  My initial reaction was disgust, but I quickly was humbled realizing my grandma’s determination to care for her husband.  In his last days, she wanted to help her husband keep his dignity. Nothing pretty, no diamonds or flowers. And not even a happily ever after.  I just saw true love that day and dedication from a wife to her dying husband.  Till death do us part, by example and by far one of the best lessons I’ve learned thus far.

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