My grandmother is a gin rummy fanatic. Practically every time we see each other, we play the card game.
In the beginning, she won a lot. She had decades of experience under her belt. I, on the other hand, had to be reminded of rules and introduced to various strategies. My grandmother was my coach and my rival all wrapped up into one.
And she loved to talk while we played.
“Here’s a pretty card for you.”
“Well that’s not very nice!”
“Oh, I might just take that.”
My grandmother lives in St. Louis, so I don’t see her very often. I suppose the only upside to that is that each of our visits feels more special.
Recently, her memory has started to fade. She often tells the same stories over and over, or asks questions that were answered just a few minutes ago. It can be frustrating when she doesn’t remember simple things I tell her or when she repeats information. But despite this annoyance, I know she needs support from relatives now more than ever.
I saw my grandmother most recently over Thanksgiving break, and, like usual, we played gin rummy. The remarks she made while we played were familiar and fun, but there were a few new ones in the mix as well.
“How many cards am I dealing?”
“Do you remember our scores?”
“What was the knock card?”
Now, I am the one reminding my grandmother of rules and coaching her through the game. As age changes her, I have to take more responsibility, both when it comes to card games and other aspects of our relationship. And maybe that’s just how it is – over time, younger generations have to adapt to take care of the people who used to take care of them.
Recently, my family has been working on moving my grandmother into a retirement home. She met the effort with much resistance at first – my grandmother does not want to admit that her memory is not what it used to be. Almost all of my relatives had to work together for the transition to go smoothly: people have gone to St. Louis to visit my grandmother in her retirement home; my mom and some of her siblings have been going through everything that my grandmother has accumulated in her apartment over the years; we have been sending letters to her new address to make it feel more like home.
I think we have all been affected by this shift in dynamics, especially my mom and her siblings. It is strange to acknowledge how much care and support my grandmother needs, because she is the one who used to provide care and support to the rest of our family.
While it can be scary and uncomfortable to see people around me grow older and need more assistance from others, it is a natural part of life. Just because relationships change doesn’t mean they are any less special. I will always cherish my grandmother, no matter who’s reminding the other of how to play gin rummy.