April 28, 2011

When Grandma Came to Live with Us (1 by Margaret Ullrich)

Yesterday an elderly woman announced "This is my home," and refused to move to a safer area, even though she is in danger from the flood.  
Being a senior citizen, I can sympathize with how attached she is to a home she has lived in for a long time.
Recently 'reuniting families' has become an election issue.
It really does sound like a wonderful idea.
I lived through a family reunification.  It was over a half century ago.  It was done with the best of intentions.  I had thought my situation was unique.  But, living in the north end of Winnipeg, a very diverse area, I've learned I didn't have a particularly unique experience.  Other families are struggling with homesick elderly relatives in the 21st century.
I wonder how much experience politicians have had with elderly immigrant relatives...

     My parents and I had emigrated from Malta when I was an infant.  Most of Pop's relatives had emigrated before we did.  Ma's brother Charlie was living with us.  But we still had family in Malta, including Pop's parents, Ma's sister, their brother and their mother.  

     I had seen my friends' Grandmas handing out treats and toys.  My cousins' Grandma had included me in family parties and had helped me make the transition from Befana to Santa Claus when I was five.  But I wanted my own Grandma, too.

     Ma had told me that her father had died when she was four.  Her mother had been expecting Charlie.  There wasn't any pension so she had to clean people's houses.  Ma and her older sister, Stella, had to care for the two boys.  Stella became a seamstress to earn money for the family.  School was a luxury.  Then the war happened.  Their home was hit by a bomb and destroyed.  Luckily the children had hidden under the table.  Their neighbors had dug them out by the time Grandma returned from work.  Grandma, an amazing hero, was strong and brave and could handle anything.  She had kept her family together through it all.
     Then, when I was eight, Ma told me that Grandma would be coming to live with us in a few weeks.  Ma said we were going to have to make a few changes, but it was going to be just fine.  The two cribs for my brother and sister would stay in my parents' bedroom.  Grandma and I would share a twin bed in Uncle Charlie's room. 
     Ma cried when Charlie phoned from the airport to tell us Grandma had arrived.  Ma reminded me to never mention in front of Grandma the names of any of her family in Malta.  I had thought it was because Grandma would get sad about not seeing her children or my cousins.  Well, I reasoned, it was about time I had a chance to see her, too.  Grandma was also my Godmother, so I thought we'd really have a great time together. 

     When my sixty-year-old Grandma entered I was disappointed.  She didn't hug anyone.  She said the house was small.  Ma kept saying things would be alright, that we would make a few changes.

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