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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In between the to-do lists

It still feels like I just got back from RWA. While I was still in RWA catch-up mode, I got a phone call from my cousin. My grandmother in PA was not doing well, and not expected to make it. After a brief conversation with hubby, who basically said, "this is not a question of whether or not you go. It's a matter of how fast we can make it happen," I was on a plane to see my grandma.

The mind plays funny tricks on you while you're going from airport to airport, not sure if during that last flight, the grandma you haven't seen in about 15 years has died. I never meant for it to be so long between visits. As a kid, every summer when I went to my dad's, Grandma was there to babysit while he worked. I spent every summer during my childhood sharing a bed with Grandma. We read every night. So much of who I am came from those nights with my grandma.

But then I grew up. When I graduated from college, I didn't have the money to visit her. Then, her heart problems prevented her from being able to travel, so I couldn't have her visit me. More time passed, and as our family grew, it seemed more and more expensive for us to be able to see her. Airfare, car rental, hotel... so visiting her became a dream that would happen someday.

We forget that as we age, so do our family members. Grandma has had a series of health crises, each one more serious than the last. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at writing snail mail letters, and she doesn't know how to use a computer. She doesn't have long distance on her phone, so I've had to call and leave short messages that barely said anything. And I admit, those didn't happen as often as I'd have liked, either.

Because as anyone who knows me knows, my to-do lists are always ten miles too long. I think of others often, but when push comes to shove, I have to do the most pressing item on the list.

Last week, I chose to put away the lists and focus on my grandma. I spent five days with family I haven't seen since I was small. People I barely recognized, but still connected with. The to-do list grew. I did only the bare essentials, and spent most of my time sitting in a hospital room halfway across the country.

I realized that in between the to-do lists, there is another list. A place where the precious people of our lives need to know that they're important to us. Where, if your kids come in to the room, they know that you're willing to put down the computer and give them a snuggle on your lap. And loved ones who are far away don't have to wonder how you are because you've taken the time to say hello and that you're thinking of them. Without potential tragedy to force you into it.

The good news is that my grandma is improving. She still has a long way to go, but she and I made each other a promise. When she is back in her apartment, she's going to make me some of her famous spaghetti sauce. And I'll come back to learn how to make it.

While there will always be laundry to do, I won't always get to make sauce with my grandma.


Denise Miller Holmes said...

Sweet, Danica, really sweet. It's amazing how the world doesn't fall apart when we don't follow our to-do lists.

Danica Favorite said...

Yes, it's true. The world keeps going on around you.