Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Driving Miss Yolanda

I'm on Long Island for a few days cat sitting for my mom who is currently enjoying herself on a cruise to Canada with her gal pals. One of the things on Mom's to-do list was to take my grandma to her day program.

Grandma has been "slipping" since Grandpa passed eighteen months ago. Luckily she's physically healthy, but her memory is failing. This past spring my family had to bravely intervene and take away her car keys after a slight altercation/fender bender in a store parking lot. Gram didn't recall the occurrence and my mom and her four siblings knew they had to step in and forbid her from driving. It's not an easy thing to do to someone. Old folks think they're fine, they're cool, but in some cases, they're really not.

For months now, my mom has sadly pointed out the irony of being on the other side of caring for her mother who always cared for her. Yes, I understand this is that whole circle of life thing, but once you're actually doing it, is when you see it firsthand. I also realize I'm very lucky to even have a grandma at my age. But still, I'm selfish and I want more. I wanted Grandma to remember why I was there to pick her up this morning. I wanted Grandma to be able to tell me how to get to her day program right in the town she's lived in for over fifty years. I wanted Grandma to tell me stories about the other people in her class and what she does each day and what was in her little brown bag lunch. She couldn't.

As I share this entry with you, my eyes are overcome with tears. Thinking about how the tables have turned breaks my heart, Grandma said it herself which was surprising. Though she couldn't recall my tales of her teaching me how to drive in high school, she did acknowledge the irony a bit. "I never would have imagined not only my daughter helping me get somewhere, but my grand daughter." All of us kids had Grandma as a driving instructor from what I remember. I'm not sure what it was about her, but she was always very patient and didn't panic when my breaking was a bit rocky and I'd slightly veer over the yellow line.

On our way to the class this morning, I reminisced about how she drove the little golden Creative Country Day School bus for many years. It was a bonus for my mom, as well as for my brother and me. She was not only babysitting us, but had us in an actual daycare setting with awesome toys and other kids to play with. We called her "Miss Yolanda" while she was at work. Funny how all teachers are "Miss." I guess it's easier for kids to remember.

Behind the steering wheel, Grandma would lead us in cheerful songs like "Wheels on The Bus." I can still smell the leather from the boxy green school bus seats and feel the cold metal of the bulky lap belt. Grandma would buckle each of us in and tug on the belt to make sure we were safe. I remember it was weird seeing my grandma interacting with other kids that didn't belong to her. Yet, at the same time I felt proud. That was my grandma!

Another task Grandma was responsible for at the daycare center was prepaning meals for the school's hot lunch program. She'd throw together heaping portions of baked ziti, mac and cheese, fish sticks, pizza and other '70s and '80s kid friendly foods. My personal favorite grandma meals were her homemade pizza and of course crispy chicken cutlets. I often complained to Mom, "It's not as good as Grandma's!" Gone are the days of Grandma's delicious cooking, something she had a passion for too. Today, she isn't exactly sure how to follow the recipes and tends to confuse the ingredients.

I guess the reason today was very difficult for me, was because here I was driving my grandmother to a daycare program, yet it was my grandma who did the exact same thing for me many years ago. I know my situation isn't special or uncommon. It just helps me to share. Thanks for listening.

First Birthday with Grandma

My little brother, our grandma and her school bus.


dina said...

Aww... sweet and sad. I've been worrying about my grandma lately too.

Nicole said...

oh no, i'm crying at 7 AM. my grandma lost her memory too. even though she may not be able, you should reminisce with her too... she may enjoy it.

Michael Conza said...


You have outlined some very nice memories. I also smell those seats on Grandma's bus. I remember my twin brother & I eating one of her delicious dishes, she made for us for lunch on the bus after Creative school. After elementary school, she would make us hot tea while we did our homework. It was the first time we had it & just loved it.
God bless.

Ally said...

Thanks for sending that comment in Michael. I deleted the other one, I think you sent it by mistake :-)


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