We visited my grandmother a couple days ago, and we'll see her one more time this trip, and perhaps one more time at her house that she's lived at for more than 33 years. Grandma is moving to Texas to be closer to my mom and sisters, leaving Midwest winters behind.
It occurred to me on the recent visit that these would be the last time I'd be seeing her house. My grandfather bought that house I think sometime in the 1960s, before he married Grandma (he's technically my stepgrandfather), and it's been her home too after they got married in 1977. Grandpa died in 2005, and she's been alone there (not completely alone, she's got a small dog) since. It's more house than she needs, and there's not much left for her here in Illinois, so this move will be good for her. But anytime you leave someplace you have lived for so long, it's always bittersweet, and it is for me knowing when we depart from one last visit, that will be it.
My grandfather collected lots and lots of stuff over the years, and Grandma has been trying to finish off cleaning/sorting/junking all of it. I think it's worn her out -- she looked tired when we visited. She said that as she was getting the house ready, she would curse my grandfather's ashes every morning for leaving her all this junk. I don't think she was joking, either. The house holds decades of memories of holiday dinners, pasta and meatballs, the cigarette smell that has never seemed to dissipate (at least Grandma is smoking outside now in an effort to sell the house) and the familiar furnishings we'd see visit after visit.
And then there's Grandma's swinging bench in her yard. It's great for naps, as I found out in 2006 when I was in town with Eldest for a friend's wedding, a couple days before Wife flew out. I was so stressed out that year from work and a new child, but for an hour, while my mom and grandmother watched Eldest, I dozed on that swing and was at peace. I don't know if the swing is making the trip to Texas.
So here are three things that I've come away with from the second-to-last visit to Grandma's house:
1. I am in a much better place than I was four years ago. Every time I sit on that swing (now without a canopy, which was blown away in a bad storm, I remember that day and that I can't let stress take over like it did for a few months in 2006.
2. I think it must be exciting for my grandmother, at age 80, to start a new life. I'm almost reminded of Bilbo Baggins at the end of Lord of the Rings starting a new adventure. I hope she's not as bored or tired in Texas as she has been these past several months. It's tough for her: She spent her whole life caring for other people, and once they all moved or died, and after she retired, I think there's just nothing for her to do -- there were never any side interests. I hope she finds a new passion in Texas, even if it's a small passion. Maybe even a part-time job -- I know she would do it well, as she was getting promotions well into her late 60s before she retired.
3. Finally, I realized that I really miss my grandfather.