Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Optimus Prime Across The Ages



My mother is a small woman. As she has become older, almost 88 years old now, her world has become small too. But there is one thing that has always been huge in her life, and that is my children.

My husband graciously and generously -- to the point that just typing this brings tears to my eyes --  drives 30 minutes to pick her up Sunday mornings at 8 a.m. He then drives 30 minutes back to our house, bringing her to spend the day with us and our three boys. It's a lot of work. She tires every few steps, she's unsteady on her cane and moves as if her bones were those of a bird -- fearful of a fall, knowing what a broken limb will do to her at this stage in her life.

When we pull into our garage, it takes the two of us to lift her out of the front seat of the van. We guide her to the ground, and with my husband leading and me closely behind her, she takes the three stairs into our house, one at a time. Opening the door to the back hallway, we enter and she thanks us for having the house cool and air conditioned. Two steps by two steps, I help her work her way deliberately across our long wooden kitchen floor, she leading with her cane.

"Your floors are too clean," she complains, her way of letting me know that they feel too slippery. With much relief, from both of us, she finally comes to rest at her place in the living room. I hold on to her right arm, and she shakily holds onto her cane, as she falls back into our 20-year-old weathered leather couch. I have found two extra-large square pillows that I keep there for her, placed upright behind her back to help her hold herself up. This is her chosen spot, in the middle of the house, where she can watch all that goes on while she's here.

We do everything that is normal for us that day, with my mother in the background. I ask our kids to stay downstairs when she visits, since I know she likes to feel their presence. She doesn't even need their words, she just likes to watch from where she is and see the strong bodies of youth as they get up from the floor where they're sitting reading the Sunday paper, moving as if it's the easiest thing in the world to do.

Our house has a floor plan where there are no walls. Fancily called "open concept." I like it because I can be in the kitchen, in the center of the house, and my three children can be anywhere else downstairs, and I will still see and hear them. Funny how much like my mother I am in that way -- needing to see flashes of the three of them as they run from room to room.

To keep everyone engaged while I'm busy getting her small lunch ready, I let the kids marathon it with Netflix. On Sundays when my mother is over, they watch Transformers and Tron and The Regular Show until their eyeballs turn inside out. It keeps them all together and I don't care.

Optimus versus Megatron

The little one's favorite show is Transformers, good guy and bad guy robots who come to life and battle for Earth. His hero: Optimus Prime, the leader of the good guys who is trying to keep Earth out of the hands of the bad guys, who are headed up by the evil Megatron. My son and his grandmother decide to watch this show first. He leans against her, and together they sit on the brown leather sofa that has softened with age as much as she has.

I'm at the stove stirring a small soup for her lunch, and soon I'm reaching for my notebook and pen to write what I hear as my ten-year-old son explains in English to his 88-year-old Colombian grandmother who answers back in Spanish, about the scene unfolding between the two robot leaders today:

Oh, mijo. He is mad. Who is that one that is so mad? 

That's Megatron, Nona. He's the bad guy. He's a bad leader, too, he never fights. But he wants the good guy's job.

The good guy? The one I like? That one?

Yeah. That red and blue one. He's a good leader. He gets in and fights on all the battles but Megatron just gives orders and even his own guys hate him.

Then they should overthrow him. Like my government did to their leader.

They can't. They don't have enough guys. There's only five of the bad ones. The good guy has the most guys.

Then they need you. You should go with the good one.

I would, but the bad ones like being bad. Hear their laughs? They like being bad.

You would be good and destroy that bad one. You are strong and smart.

I would fight with Optimus because I know tricks to beat Megatron.

You need to do it then. If you fight with that good guy, you would win. You would be the best one and you would beat that bad one.

Yeah. I know.

You would beat him. I know it.

Megatron wants Earth. That's why Optimus has to fight him for it. I love you, Nona. I like it when you come.

Me, too, hijo mio. I like to come here. Who is that new one now that is so mad? He is upset.

Oh, that's Starscream. Remember? He's a double crosser.

You have to tell that to the good one then.

I know. Optimus always believes Starscream and then Starscream tricks him.

They need you, mijo.

I would tell Optimus to never believe Starscream. Wanna watch the next episode, Nona? Mom? Can we watch another episode?

I put my spoon down and join them in the living room. I want to enjoy the show as much as the both of them are, but I am an outsider. I only see a cartoon of  animated robots: the good guy fighting for planet Earth, the bad guy wanting to conquer planet Earth. I know how it ends.

But my mother and my ten-year-old son: they've entered a shared world; one where the destiny of Earth is in the balance. My mother looks at her grandson and sees him as the critical link to winning this battle, and my son looks into his grandmother's eyes and sees himself her hero. 


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**I've been tweeting lately of my mother's visits. Thank you to all of you, for your kind responses and words of love this past weekend. All of you, make such a difference in my life. xo


52 comments:

  1. Your family is SO lucky to have her in their lives and she is very fortunate to have family that cares so much for her.

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    1. Just sent you an email with some more details. I tweeted about it this past weekend. You're always so kind to me. Thank you.

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  2. Oh this is beautiful. Beautiful. We don't have transformers here but we do have my 89 year old grandmother who is quite confused by Yo Gabba Gabba. Love seeing the generations together. xo

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  3. big smiles....you captured that convo perfect...made me grin ear to ear...they def need him...love that she engages with him too...that is something special...

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  4. I had to kinda hold my emotions in check while reading this because it reminded me of my dad. This is such a dear post. Truly.

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    1. Thank you, Liz.

      It's hard when you see a fresh life side by side with one on the other side.

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  5. Oh my goodness. You brought tears to my eyes. Your family is wonderful!

    Seriously, the sweetness and love in this post...just overwhelming. Beautiful.

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  6. This is big time awesome! What a gift, to be able to come together as a family, even if it takes a lot of effort. It's obviously worth it. I loved being an eavesdropper on their conversation.

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  7. I like imagining your son's and mother's faces as they discuss the show. It is something you and they will both will treasure forever. I tend to overstay my welcome when my husband's 94-year-old grandmother visits with my children. There is such amazement on my part, such love, that it's hard to back away, return to my stirring.

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    1. There is such a rich history and thread there. It tethers us, knowing our stock.

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  8. oh my goodness. this is so rich and beautiful! you have done so many things right, my friend.

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  9. This was a wonderful post. I can picture your son sitting next to her and them talking while watching. True precious moments. I wish we could choose how those later years go. I got a little choked up wishing my grandmother could find that sense of calm.

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    1. Your comments are always so very kind.

      Thank you. xo

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  10. This brings me back to a specific moment, sometime in my childhood, watching Thundercats with my grandfather, explaining the good guys & the bad guys, and the fact that the motivation of the bad guys simply seemed to be "to be evil."

    Thank you for bringing back the memory.

    My grandfather was always prim & proper -- this was one moment that sticks out, just a little bit, because "getting into a children's show" isn't something that he'd do. At least, it wasn't his character . . . except that he'd do anything for his grandkids, including sitting down & watching a horrible action cartoon :-)

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  11. This is so very heartwarming. Absolutely precious for both of them...and you getting to witness.

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  12. Omigosh. This is the best response to the nightmares in Colorado. May your sons and mine be a link to the good force that can prevail. Because I really do believe there are more good people in the world. I do.

    And I remember my Nanny coming to visit when she was frail. You capture this so perfectly. Truly, Alex, you are delicious in all the ways you write.

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    1. Oh, Renee: encouraging writers like you, a BIG reason why I love the internet.

      Thank you.

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  13. Wow, I always enjoy being transported by the unique experiences of a loving family. These kinds of posts are very easy to read and very gentle with their reader. May we all strive for the good.

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    1. Thank you so much, Hillary. I'm glad you felt what our house is like on Sundays.

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  14. I just wrote a post about my mom too. The older we get, the more we appreciate them. Your children's time with their grandma is so precious! I love that you & your husband make the effort to include her in your Sundays. :-)

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  15. What a wonderful post.
    I bet your mom was also a kick-ass Trinity in her day :)

    Love your blog!

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  16. This post brought a tear to my eye. I could almost see her, frail but determined to spend some time with her grandchildren. A wonderful post.

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    1. Oh, thank you.

      And now I must come to meet you.

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  17. This post, this story is just SO BEAUTIFUL.

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  18. That was lovely -- and what an elegant way to bring it all together at the end.

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  19. what a tender, lovely post, Alexandra. I can see it in my mind.

    it makes me wish I'd have had that sort of relationship with any of my grandmothers (I had 3 b/c my dad's parents divorced and his dad remarried), but I did not. One was mentally ill and lived in Wisconsin (as you may remember) while we were in New Orleans. One was bitter and angry about lots of things, so she and my father did not get alone, especially once he came out of the closet. So I did not have a close bond with her, although she lived in NOLA with us. My third grandmother was very old even when I was a child, and I was in the room with her when she died. She was a generous woman, and she used to love playing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" on her piano. I have a feeling if I'd been a little older, she might have been this sort of grandmother to me.

    I long for this, what you write about. And I hope someday I shall be an awesome grandmother...and that I will remain a good daughter to my mother, as you have.

    Tears. and hugs to you.

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    1. Sending you email, Erin. Much love to you. xo

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  20. You brought tears to my eyes with this beautiful snapshot of your family.

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  21. i love that you recounted their conversation. i love that she watched the show with him and how they responded to one another. this was a beautiful read, thank you so much for sharing this page out of your life with us!

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  22. Oh, Alexandra... what your words do for me, I will never be able to fully express. This leaves me with tears in my eyes and goosebumps all over my body. Thank you for recounting their beautiful friendship and deep emotional bond.

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  23. Oh you and your words and your bog love that envelops and connects all those around you.

    This is stunning. All of it.

    xo

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  24. GAH... Now I just want to sit down and have a good cry, but I'm at work and I can't do that right now. This reminds me so much of my grandmother. Even though she was not frail she was always watching us. From the kitchen where she was cooking, from the couch where she was mending clothes or doing embroidery, from the porch swing while we played... Always watching, and always there waiting for us. So beautiful.

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  25. This is such a really lovely post. There is something about just knowing the ones you love are nearby, isn't there? Even if we're not talking to them every moment. You've captured just perfectly that sense of family connection that is so vital. Your family is lucky to have you at its core, linking these generations together.

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  26. Oh dear that was beautiful. I especially love that he sees himself as the hero that he is to her. Absolutely wonderful. I think its so great that she's able to see her grandchildren every weekend. I wish that my family was closer but physical and emotional to be able to share such multi-generational moments!

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  27. That is so sweet. It reminds me that I need to slow down, and try to be more available for moments like that.

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  28. This is so beautiful. What a lucky bunch, all of you. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Life is a long, hard road, and in the end, we have to do what's right, even when it means putting other things on hold for awhile, to take care of what's at hand.

      Thank you so much...

      xo

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  29. You captured such a tender moment between grandmother and grandchild so beautifully here. It made me misty-eyed reading it, reliving it in my own family, imagining it in the future. And what I love most about how you write? You bring us all together -whether we've had these experiences for ourselves or not, we feel them through your writing of them. Thank you!

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    1. Oh, thank you. It is something so very bittersweet to watch. He is so young, she is so old.

      And I'm in the middle, yet the one the most on the outside.

      Thank you.

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  30. This was such a wonderful read. I really enjoyed it.

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  31. A beautiful post. You are very lucky to have such a wonderful relationship with your mother.

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  32. You good person. And smart person- treasuring this time while you have it.

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  33. Wordless. I just want to let you know how much I love this post. Absolutely love it. Just love love love.

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  34. Thank you for reminding me, again, that the secret to finding love is in mushing generations together.

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  35. "The bad ones like being bad. Hear their laughs?" LOVE you Augie doggie. And wow, your mother sounds like she could lead the rebel forces. How great to hear her tell your son exactly why he's wonderful. And to hear him share his love for and comfort with her. Because I did hear it. Beautiful post.

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