Last week I traveled several hours to visit my ailing grandmother in her home. She isn’t much for conversation at this stage so I sat beside her in bed for hours and basically watched her sleep. It’s rare that I find myself in a still place between work and motherhood (other than when I am sleeping; although oftentimes my dreams do a damn good job of rocking me), so I decided to embrace the moment to reflect on my nana and all that she means to me.
Despite our innate differences (according to my grandmother, if food looked good, it was good; I am not a sucker for “good looks”) this petite put together woman owns part of my heart. I am the oldest of four grandchildren thus the bond we have is very special, something words can’t describe.
My memories go back as far as three years old. I recall my devoted grandmother sitting at the small table and chairs in my sun-drenched playroom while I played restaurant, doubling as waitress and cook. Scribbling her order on a small pad, a tuna sandwich on white bread with a pickle was her choice every time.
We had frequent sleepovers and a late evening snack was the recurring highlight of our time together. My grandfather always slept in another room so I could share the king sized bed with Grams and it never failed that post-dinner, while snuggled in bed watching television, she would ask if I wanted her special spaghetti—noodles coated with cottage cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper. I often accompanied my grandmother to the kitchen to make this odd, yet delicious dish.
In 1997 I had knee surgery and was laid up for quite sometime. Grandma to the rescue! On her way to visit (a 2-3 hour drive from her home to mine) she took a bit of a detour and failed to inform me. This was before the common use of cell phones. Being a tad neurotic I called the local hospitals to see if there had been an accident. Nope. She finally rolled into my driveway and when I asked why she was so late, her response was, “I stopped to get a couple of hot dogs and felt so tired after I ate that I pulled over to take a nap.” She loves food and was a fabulous cook. And while Nana relished fine cuisine hot dogs and green Jell-O were her vice.
She offered her love for a week and I vividly remember cooking together, me comfortably seated on a stool. However, we cooked Stefanie style. Despite my grandma’s love of processed food, every experience with her equals nourishment, then and even now as we sit in silence.
On this past visit, I caught wind that the doctor is dosing her up on Ensure. Jackie, her long-time caregiver told me that she loves her “nutrient dense” and completely artificial bevy. I will 100 percent admit that I went into a bit of a tailspin and took advantage of my grandmother’s silence—I immediately drove to Whole Foods to purchase Orgain, the better alternative. It’s my time to nourish her.
Ensure’s ingredients include water, GMO corn maltodextrin (sugar), sugar, milk protein, GMO canola and corn oils, GMO soy protein, artificial flavor and lots of vitamins and minerals. On the other hand, Orgain delivers the same type of nutrition without the genetically modified ingredients and artificial flavors. For someone with compromised health, the latter is the much better alternative.
I am deeply grateful for all the gifts my grandmother has bestowed upon me, most of all unconditional love and support. I am terribly saddened by her decline and writing seems to be the only way I can process the pain. She used to joke that the way she wanted to die was eating a chili cheese dog in bed. I hold that image close to my heart to capture what laughter I can in my utter heartbreak.