Updated: Jan 23
My grandmother is one of the strongest persons I have ever known.
At the age of eighty-five, six years a widow, she still lives alone.
When I was a child, I admired her for her strong character and, above all, her resolute sense of education and discipline.
Geography was her strength: instead of reproaching me, whenever I didn’t know where a place was, she would immediately take out an atlas from her shelves and navigate it with absolute dexterity. I was impressed and watched in a state of complete hypnosis. To my present sorrow, however, those private lessons did not much improve my overall knowledge of the subject in question…
She is also very religious. She is a determined Christian. Unlike many believers, though, she does not advocate or politicize about her religion: she just practices it. She goes to church constantly and even helps the local priest with the administration; at night she kneels down by her bed and prays for her children, for all her relatives—the dead ones and the young ones—and for all the lost, destitute souls that are living.
Growing up, and being able to process more mature, introspective and complex thoughts, I found what her most beautiful inner characteristic was. Yes, she is a good, wonderful human being. Yes, she is an independent, intelligent woman. Yes, she is a loving mother and an even more loving grandmother. She is a fantastic person, and I love her; yet there is one particular aspect which transcends all these earthly qualities and makes her—to my eyes—a truly special individual.
She is able to think of herself, and thus talk about herself, as if she was something other than herself. That is to say, she is able to judge her own life with as much ease and simplicity as she would somebody else’s—as if the constraints of her own body and mind were no impediments at all. This, I find to be truly remarkable, and a characteristic which I have so far not been able to see exerted by any other human being on this planet.
I may be a dreamer, but I do really think my grandmother is a special soul.
Of late, she has been having troubles with her mind. Her body is still functioning quite well, but—alas—she forgets things more frequently now, and often loses track of what she was saying while speaking. My mother has to check on her from time to time, and our concern for her safety and independency is increasing by degrees.
Up until some time ago, she was still the best cook we knew, delighting us with her delicious meals. She loved cooking. Now—or, rather, since her husband died—she has lost her dedication to cooking, and finds it a nuisance rather than a desire. Her motivation is perhaps fading away, because there isn’t anyone around the house to channel her efforts towards anymore.
With her motivation, her psychology is leaving. It’s a slow process, but a certain one. Watching it is gradually painful, especially for one who has always admired her strength of mind.
Whenever I am with her, I do my best to help her reconnect the threads of her thoughts, making suggestions with words or concepts whenever she gets lost. She then remembers, and continues—and I am as happy as I can be.
She needs time, and attention though. She needs to be given the time and space to think at her own pace. I often get nervous when someone else interrupts her because she’s too slow, or treats her as if she was a child.
I’ve been with her all my life, although I lived away from home for many years. I could have done more, for sure; I could have called more often, I could have visited more… But when we are together I always love to let her talk, and hear what she has to say—her old-fashioned yet new ways of seeing things, and of thinking about life. I’ve always been fascinated by it, and by her.
In time, I’ve learnt how to help her too, while she expresses herself. Now, I feel her declining psychology is going to affect her reasoning, and I am deeply distressed about it.
That may be the course of nature, I know; and I will try my best to keep listening to her and helping her, as she struggles to keep expressing the secrets of her existence to those who are interested and ready to learn yet another impressive lesson from her life.
Edoardo is an Italian native and has lived and studied both in Italy and abroad. He graduated with a B.A. in Modern Languages and Economics from the University of Milan and with an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of London. He now lives and works in the city of Bologna.
The views and opinions expressed in Community are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Madiha Foundation.