From Sheila’s granddaughter: I wanted to alert blogginggrandma readers to a piece by my mother, Sheila’s daughter, on the New York Times New Old Age blog today about taking care of Sheila, a reflection of sorts on the piece that Sheila published on that same blog last November and the many commenters who responded to it. No one would have been prouder of my mother’s piece than my grandmother, no one would have been more certain that the right way to be remembered–the only way to be remembered–was in words and writing, no one ever took more joy in her own writing and the writing of her friends and family. Without the slightest pretense of being unbiased, I would urge you to read my mother’s piece, and then perhaps go back and read my grandmother’s, to hear not only how much Sheila’s voice resonates in her daughter’s, but also how different and unique each one is as a writer–and how much they loved each other. So I leave you with excerpts from both of them:
Taking care of my mother wasn’t a new conversation. It was a continuation of all the conversations we’d been having our whole lives through — the good ones and the bad ones. We were performing the caretaker and the caretaken as ourselves, for better and for worse. We stayed in character.
And my mother’s character was fixed; she was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever known, and one of the toughest. She was irreducibly and completely herself — indomitable, admirable, and intermittently irrational. And she would probably have said the same about me.
And from Sheila (excerpted from Every Mother Is A Daughter: The Neverending Quest for Success, Inner Peace, and a Really Clean Kitchen (Recipes and Knitting Patterns Included):
You and your brother and your sister added so much joy and wonder to our lives. A large measure of our pleasure, I suspect, was our recognition in you of the values and skills we esteemed. In so many ways you are your individual selves, yet you are us. To have three children who write beautifully, write with pleasure and wit and intelligence, is an unbelievable legacy. You are right that your accomplishments and your children’s give me inordinate pleasure. It’s only fairly recently that I’ve begun to recognize how proud I am and how wonderful such vicarious success can be. I’ve developed the conviction that my children’s and grandchildren’s achievements are more thrilling than my own. I’m not sure about that, but I believe it’s so. Perhaps it’s because of the wonder of it; I mean, after all, when I first knew any one of you, you were absolutely helpless. And look at you now.
I think you will always know, when you’ve done something grand and good, how much joy it would have afforded me even if I’m not around. You know me well enough to be able to measure an accomplishment and say to yourself, Mama would be so proud! And I would.
I started with your mom’s piece, then read your grandmother’s. . . . I’m grateful that they both shared their thoughts. (My grandmother lived to be 102; my mom is 70-something.) Thank you.
Thank you so much for posting today, Josephine. It was wonderful to read Perri’s essay and to hear those two voices – so connected / so distinct. Today is my own mom’s yartzeit, so reading Perri’s thoughts on aging parents in general – and Sheila in particular – was very comforting. You come from a good line…!
Thank you for letting us know about your mother’s piece in the New Old Age blog. Your mother and grandmother shared a sense of humor that is so real, appreciative and loving.