Monday, June 16, 2008

Visiting Waco (with photos, wait for it!)

A week from today we leave on our trip! There's loads to do, but the kids and I made a road trip to Waco today to visit my Grandmother and Great Aunt Sudie. These sisters have lived together for years now, and recently moved within their assisted living facility from a "bungalow" to an apartment in the "big house." This move was precipitated by Aunt Sudie's health problems and physical decline, and my grandmother's progressive loss of vision due to macular degeneration. It felt like a priority to visit before our big trip.

However, you should know that my grandmother is known to be a force of nature, a woman who takes French lessons and line dancing, who is the life of every party. She is not frail. And I am pleased to report their new digs are not a step down. In fact, they have more living space than before, and now it is lined with windows. The only thing they gave up was their small kitchen. Now they have a tiny area (kinda like a wet bar) with a microwave, coffee maker, and mini fridge. The whole place is like a nice dorm room with two handicap-accessible bathrooms.

"I don't cook anymore!" my Grandma said, liberated, showing me her abbreviated kitchen. It is sad, because she was a legendary Southern cook. However, she seems happy with the change, and now the meals in the dining hall are a focus and purpose for their day.

Shortly after we arrived, Anna the ballerina changed into her ballet costumes. Grandma loves ballet but could not make it to the recital; plus she likely could not have been able to tell which one was her great-granddaughter on stage. A private performance was much better. I brought Anna's recital music on CD, and she performed the "Kite Dance," then immediately gave an encore (the audience was very persuasive), then did some of her exam exercises, then a bunch of freestyle dancing, to much applause. Colin built a track with blocks for his cars.

We also told Sudie (a former Spanish professor and linguist) that we had been listening to our Italian language CDs on the drive up. Boy, her eyes lit up when Anna and I repeated our simple sentences! "Mi piace ballare e cantare." (I like to dance and sing, Anna said). Other than that, Sudie did seem very pale and a little detached from the present. She was wearing a bulky sweater (over 100 degrees today), and was concerned Anna would be too cold in her skimpy costume. "She doesn't have thin blood like you!" Grandma told Sudie.

Grandma Dulce insisted that Anna wear her beautiful costume to lunch. Well, why not, the recital is over. So many elderly people gazed at Principessa Anna first with delight, then with warm smiles. My grandmother introduced us to half the residents.

First up at lunch was the salad course. There was a choice of jello, cottage cheese, or green salad. My kids were delighted that they were serving Red! Jello! and ate with gusto. For the main course we had chicken fried steak with gravy, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Also there were wonderful warm yeast rolls which we spread with real butter - my kids ate 2 each. We don't eat this kind of food at home, but my kids loved it. Sudie was mightily impressed with their appetites. "Colin ate more than me!" she said. For dessert was New York Cheesecake. "Is it from New York?" Anna said, and I could tell she was thinking of my sister, Auntie Emily. "No, it's New York style," I told her. It was obviously made in house and was very good (not too sweet).

After lunch Anna danced a little bit for some residents and got up on the little stage and sang a school song (without amplification) for the few people left. "She has a little bit of her great grandmother in her, doesn't she?" their caretaker wisely said.


Sinda said...

It sounds like a special visit for all involved, Jen!

grandad says said...

That is a thoughtful caring post Jennifer. Thanks for going up there and entertaining the girls with your special talented kids.

I can't wait to see you in Tewkesbury on the Avon next week. The weather will be such that we will enjoy punting down the river with a nice cup odf hot chocolate for the kids and a nice cabernet for the adults.......It will likely be in the low 60's. Too bad I blew my surprize Captain's hats for Anna and Colin on the speakerphone last night!

Can't wait.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for entertaining our ladies - I know they must have LOVED it! Anna looks so sweet in her costume. I'm sure she enjoyed performing as much as they enjoyed viewing. A lovely sweet gesture...and I know they enjoyed watching Colin eat, too!
Love you, M

Emily said...

What a great post! Glad you visited them. I call often, but I miss them.

All the residents love performances, and I'm sure Anna was a big hit!

jgjbfamily said...

Great post! Thanks for the photos and description of a wonderful day!

premenopaws said...

Brings back memories of visiting my own grandma in an assisted-living place. She dreaded moving there but it took no time before she just loved it -- having so many people around for companionship instead of living alone. It was always a wonderful place to visit.

Anonymous said...

Lovely picture of Anna and Dulcie,Jennifer..your Grandmother looks like a young chicken! those residents must have really enjoyed the have lovely looking children,Jenn..I enjoyed reading this post..thank-you.

Auntie Norma.