I've been thinking a lot about my grandparents lately. They recently moved from the home they've had for thirty-six years to an assisted living community across the country. Their health has declined in ways that really had to be seen to be believed. Before our last visit my family warned me that Mormor (my mother's mother for you non-Danes) was increasingly forgetful and easily agitated. I didn't believe them. I had seen my grandparents just a year before and they seemed fine. There was no way in twelve short months my sweet Mormor with her soft Danish accent and love of sweets could be so far gone. And yet, as we sat in their living room and I listened to her repeat the same stories over and over, asking the same questions, then getting irritated when we reminded her of the answer, the reality was undeniable. When they left for appointments the following day my husband and I cleaned their usually tidy home, noticing that the dishwasher and washing machines were running without soap and the bedding had not been washed in months.
Despite my practical knowledge that their move to assisted living is for the best, that house was my only home base. I've moved all over the country and now, across the world. Siblings have moved away, my mom has remarried and nowhere feels like home the way theirs did. I have twenty eight years of memories in that house. Sunday dinners with cousins, bonfires and barbeques, waking up every Saturday morning in the summers to tend to their huge garden. Giggling when they spoke in Danish because that meant they were arguing.
They traveled the world but even when they weren't there, someone from the family was. The door was always open. NPR was always quietly playing from the formal living room and in the winter months there was usually a fire crackling in the fireplace. One Christmas morning after they returned from Africa with some friends I woke to find everyone (grandparents included) wearing traditional African garb, playing spoons.
They were insane in the best possible way.
I'm not sure when I'll make it back to the states, but I know that when I drive past their house, it won't be theirs anymore. I know when I see them again they may not remember me at all. So this Christmas I'm celebrating all the wonderful years I spent in a time and place that has slipped away seemingly overnight.
Glædelig jul, Merry Christmas