As a caregiver, I write to share my experiences, thoughts, impressions, and feelings. Some people may be able to relate, and for some, my writing can bring about an understanding; a perspective of the rewards, the trials, the challenges, and the deep love I had for my grandparents. In the process of sharing my journey I was asked to share photos of me and my grandparents. No problem: I lived with them for so many years, and we created so many memories. I had lots of photos that I could share, or so I thought!
Well, apparently, I have the memories but very few photos. I searched through the photos that I have yet to put into a scrapbook, I looked through photo albums, and my completed scrapbooks. While there were photos of my grandparents, there were few of the three of us together! For each photo taken of them when I was there, I can remember the occasion or event. I recall who was there, and what happened (yes, I have the memory of an elephant; I got this trait from Ota - I very rarely forget). I was shocked to see I had so few photos of the three of us. Sure, there were group and family photos, but I guess like the parent who has thousands of photos of their child(ren), as the photographer, they are missing from the visual memories that pictures provide. I will add for the younger generations that these photos were taken before the use of smartphones with the ability to take selfies. The photos I have were from a camera that used film that needed to be developed and photos printed. This took time - there were no visuals until the photos were printed. You had to wait to see if it was a good shot or not!
Alas, I digress. In my search for photos, I found myself taking a trip down memory lane. I recalled holidays, family events, and extended family members and friends’ visits. It was beautiful to remember all the good times. I realized how blessed I was to be left with such a legacy of memories. I recalled the times I spent doing things with both grandparents, the many skills I learned, and how I took the skills and abilities they taught me to develop or adapt new skills.
My grandfather went to school and learned how to grow, graft, trim, and take care of trees and gardens. He had a huge garden and kept bees, chickens, ducks, turkeys and was a skilled butcher. In Canada he learned about construction and put his knowledge into making furniture. Ota built beds, night tables, dressers, china cabinets, a wall unit, rocking chairs, sleds, chairs for children, coffee tables, kitchen and dining room tables, and chairs. He built picture frames, kitchen cabinets, my desk and sewing tables for me and Oma, and helped me refinish a chest and bookcase. My grandfather also dabbled in making ice buckets, salt and pepper shakers, bowls, and did home renovations. I mean this man had serious skills, and through him I learned to appreciate and recognize quality woodwork. Ota was precise in what he did, and that wasn’t only with woodworking; he made wine from actual grapes. No wine kits or buying juice for this man! He and Oma worked together; he would help my grandmother in the kitchen with canning, freezing, and making zucchini relish and salsa - he would chop and dice like a master chef.
Oma was just as industrious; she crocheted blankets, knitted sweaters and vests, overalls, and dresses for kids. She cross-stitched tablecloths without printed patterns; she counted the stiches and used a mirror to get the design for the corners. She could alter and sew clothes. I remember she made matching nightgowns for both of us. She taught me how to use her sewing machine and take care of it (major repairs were Ota’s job). It is from her that I learned to crochet, cross-stitch, and rug hook. She taught me how to cook, do laundry and bake. She worked beside my grandfather gardening and would assist him with his projects. In fact, after my grandfather retired, we all would be together baking and canning things like marmalade, canned fruit, sourdough bread and cookies… I learned it all from them!
I still laugh as I remember when I would find new recipes, patterns or a different design for my desk and they would ask where I learned how to do these new things; things like making tacos, nachos, pineapple ginger beef, or lasagna. Anything that was not of our culture was new to them and they would ask how I learned to do them. I would laugh and tell them they taught me how to do all those new things; they gave me the legacy of knowledge and skills that I could use to expand, grow, and develop.
My grandparents provided me with a legacy that nothing materialistic could compare to. They were perfectionists in what they did and shared their knowledge willingly with me and my family. If nieces and nephews , cousins, sisters, brothers, and especially grandchildren asked, my grandparents could and would help. They were hardworking down-to-earth people who shared what they knew and gave what they had.
The legacy I inherited from them has started my legacy. I have items they made to pass down to my nieces and nephews, but I also will be remembered for the blankets I knitted or crocheted for nieces, nephews, friends, and friends’ and cousins’ children. I have received a legacy much more valuable than money. I have knowledge, skills and traits that were passed down to me from my grandparents, and that I shall continue to pass down to those who are interested. So, while I may not have many group photos of my grandparents and me, I have now learned to include myself in more photos so that I can leave visual memories in my legacy.
P.S. How are those New Year`s Resolutions? I am proud to say I am still keeping mine!
From the Pages of a Caregiver’s Journal is a feature within Home Hospice Association’s Many Faces of Compassion workshop series. If you are Caregiver looking for additional education and support we hope you will join us: https://www.homehospiceassociation.com/copy-of-many-faces-of-compassion