Grandma and “My Girl” – How A 2 Year Old Broke Through to A 100 Year Old Heart

I started babysitting my friend’s daughter, Malia, when she was three months old. The first time was as a favor because her parents could not find a sitter for the day. The next time was just for fun since I love babies and soon I found that I loved having Malia around. We now have the tradition of spending every other Tuesday together.

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/pepifotoFive months ago I introduced her to my Grandma. I hesitated to make the introduction because in previous years my Grandma had been very jealous of my attention and was never excited to know that she would have to share.

But on this Tuesday I decided I would take a chance. I took Malia over and my Grandma’s heart melted instantly. She smiled the biggest smile I have seen from her in years. She held Malia on her lap, sang to her, hugged and kissed her. When it was time to leave, the new best friends gave each other the sweetest kiss.

It is a picture I will always treasure.

About a month or so after this introduction, my Grandma broke her hip and had to undergo surgery. For those of you who have faithfully followed the blog, this IS the same Grandma who I thought I was going to lose a couple of years ago when she fractured her pelvis. She is tough as nails and at 99 years old made it through surgery and rehabilitation.

While her body has survived the assaults it has been dealt, her mind has not faired as well. The dementia that was already present has accelerated significantly. Most days she is delusional and weaves tales with little factual basis. Some days she is extremely agitated and argumentative, she’s even insisted that the caregivers are plotting to kill her.

IMG_7654Grandma reached her milestone birthday, 100, on May 28th but she was not physically or mentally able to celebrate as we had hoped. Her life has now been reduced to either being in a hospital bed or a wheelchair and sleeping most of the time.

The one thing Grandma does remember is “my girl”. If I go over on an alternate Tuesday and do not have Malia with me, I might as well not even show up. Even if I explain that Malia has to spend time with her own Grandma, she pouts and barely speaks to me.

But when I do show up with Malia in tow, all is right in Grandma’s world. The smile spreads quickly across her lips, and a gleam returns to her eyes. She is at her happiest when that little girl is on her lap.

Children have an amazing way of caring for those who are nearing the end of their life. Malia climbs up the wheelchair without hesitation into my Grandma’s eagerly waiting arms. Malia holds her frail hand and gives her such special attention. They have a language all their own.

I often think it may be hard for Malia once my Grandma is gone. She is part of our day. We first go to our favorite breakfast spot, Ted’s Place, and then on to Grandma’s. Will this be hard for her or will she just carry on with childlike resiliency? Will I have a hard time on Malia days with the void that will be left when we no longer have Grandma to visit?

830d9f2035c9f484bd6a9951f0b1fe6cFor now I shift my focus to being grateful for the joy this little girl has brought into our lives. My Grandma has lived a life filled with tragedies that have resulted in her putting up walls of bitterness. A two year old came in and broke through those walls in one visit. There have been many days when I thought my Grandma and I would not be on speaking terms when she passed. We have been given the gift of a special little girl who has brought us closer together. Our visits are now filled with smiles and laughter instead of my grandma obsessively discussing her bills.

Each morning I wake up expecting this could be the day I get “the call”. I will be sad, but I do not dread it like I used to. I have had weeks of seeing my Grandma happier than I can remember in years. That feeling of peace is priceless and to think it is all the work of a two year old.

 

|| what do you think?

Have you witnessed the joy a child can bring to someone with dementia?

Do you have children or grandchildren who have cared for family members or friends in their final stages of life?

 

 

Lori

About Lori

I was born in Long Beach, raised in Cypress and ventured to South Orange County in 1999. I'm a member of Saddleback Church and through volunteering in the Memorial Ministry I was introduced to Neil O'Connor. Neil decided to bring me on board even despite my endless badgering at our first meeting. I am the Director of Care Coordination and also fill the roles of Memorial Marker Design Specialist, Weekend Receptionist and Blog Team Member. Never did I expect a mortuary would be the place I would find my dream job. I feel extremely blessed by the relationships I have formed at O'Connor with the team and the families we are privileged to serve. I now live in Aliso Viejo with my beloved pups Max and Bella. Free time, though often hard to come by, is mostly spent with friends. The Bible verse I live by - I can do everything through him who gives me strength Philippians 4:13
This entry was posted in Inspiration, Seasons of Life. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Lori,
    This story is beyond “sweet,” it’s truly amazing to see the deep and instantaneous connection Malia and your Grandma have. There is something about children (and I think I can include pets in this without diminishing the compliment) that is so readily open to love, receive and accept. It’s a quality we tend to lose over time as we are hurt and keep our skepticism turned on.
    Thank you for sharing about Malia, for being so open about the relationship you have struggled (at times) to maintain with your grandma, and more than that, I want to acknowledge the incredible heart you have for your grandma that held onto the hope of healing and wanted something beautiful and wonderful her when you chose to introduce her to Malia. You have given her (and Malia) a gift that she will never forget – you’re an amazing granddaughter!

    Molly

    • Lori

      Molly,
      Thank you for your sweet words. The relationship with my Grandma is one I have struggled with for years. Each season has held it’s different reasons for strains on our relationship.
      There was no grand plan to introduce Malia and have her fix everything. It just happened and Wow, just Wow! It makes my visits with my Grandma so much more relaxed. I do not know that I would consider myself an amazing granddaughter, we all look back and think we could have worked harder on some things. It is too late to work on those things here and now. What I do know is my Grandma’s final days will now hold memories for me of laughing and singing with Malia. That is a gift I never expected, never saw coming and could not be more grateful for. I thank her Mom often for sharing her with us.

      Love,
      Lori

  • Mark

    Lori….Thank you for sharing the story about how your Grandma and Malia “connected”…I am glad to hear that your relationship with your Grandma is better….cherish the moments you have left with her…….Mark

    • Lori

      Mark,
      Thank you for being a sounding board in days when things were not good with my Grandma. Thank you also for the advice to cherish these moments. I do because this is how I want to remember her. I do not want to hold onto the past and become bitter like she did. I want to remember her smiling, eyes sparkling, arms extended for “her girl”.
      Lori

  • Fitz

    Lori,
    What a touching blog.Thanks for sharing. It is really profound how your grandmother has taken to Malia. It seems she is truly at peace when they are together. These will be some of your fondest memories and will certainly carry you through those difficult times you occasionally have now.
    Fitz

    • Lori

      Fitz,
      Yes, I would agree that she is definitely “at peace” when Malia is around. Our visits used to consist of her struggling to think of what appointments, finances or other business she could ask me about. Now our visits consist of her smiling and laughing. These are definitely my fondest memories of her!
      Lori

  • Becky Finch Lomaka

    Hi Lori,
    Your grandmother is blessed to have not only Malia but YOU in her life! Through good times and through struggles you are always there for her; a consistent love that she can always count on. That you have brought Malia into her life is so sweet. I loved reading about the special bond the two of them share. What a special joy you have given to your grandmother in the last years of her life.

    Children have a way of lifting us up even during the darkest times. Their innocence and unconditional love shines through and breaks the barriers of memory loss, physical disabilities, and emotional wounds. Thank you for sharing!

    Becky

    • Lori

      Becky,
      Thank you for being so sweet! There are days when you would not consider her so lucky to have me! My patience wears thin.
      Malia has taken the work out of the visits and for that she deserves to be spoiled rotten!
      Children are definitely great medicine for all of us…
      XOXO
      Lori

  • Joanna Ramirez

    Lori,

    Thank you for sharing this story and bond with us! It is interesting to me to see first hand how much Malia has taken to your grandma. She typically isn’t a bonder with strangers 9not so soon anyway). She always seems so happy when she sees her and when we get home she says “I love grandma”. Oh and “Lori too”. Again, beautiful tale!!

    Joanna

    • Lori

      Joanna,
      THANK YOU for sharing your precious girl with us! She has been a bright light for both of us. I so look forward to our Tuesdays together. I especially love how she already knows she has me wrapped around her little finger. Yesterday she saw a commercial for Chuck E. Cheese and without pause tells me, “I want to go there”. So guess what? In two weeks, we are going there!
      She is a special little girl and it has been amazing to see how much my Grandma loves her and lights up with her around.
      Lori

  • Joe Lavoie

    Lori

    What a very touching story you shared and what a sweet photo. What a special time that was for you to witness the interaction between your grandmother and Malia , my own children have shared the same interaction with my parents I will say times like those are priceless. Thanks so much again for sharing your story.
    Sincerely , Joe Lavoie

    • Lori

      Joe,
      You are in the interesting position that you have had two sets of kids who can care for your parents. What a special gift to them!
      Kids are healing for all of us. Glad I skipped right to the Grandma stage so I can enjoy every minute, spoil her rotten and give her back!
      Love,
      Lori

  • Stacy

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story Lori. It is truly amazing to take notice of how little people bring smiles to our faces. As adults, we are so caught up in out own busy schedules and tasks/errands that need to be done and can go on and on that way. Children certainly make a difference and can bring smiles to our face. I know my little sister and nephew do to me. I forget about my stresses and problems when I am around those kids, I laugh so hard and feel happy around them. I am very blessed to have them in my life. I can imagine you and your grandma feel joyous when Malia is around. Thanks again for sharing! And very nice picture you shared with us of your grandma and Malia, cute! 🙂

    • Lori

      Stacy,
      Thank you for reading and sharing your experience. You are right, children do bring smiles. It is nearly impossible, even in the grocery store, to encounter one and not break out in a grin. I especially enjoy seeing things through Malia’s eyes. It is fun to see that childlike wonder. We can play catch with a dog toy for thirty minutes. Every experience is new and fun for kids and it is good medicine for those of us who always in a hurry to play along with them.
      Lori

  • Chuck Ricciardi

    Lori,

    Thanks for sharing with us the wonderful relationship of your two buddies. What is age anyway? just a number? 88 year age difference, so what, a connection is made and that is all that counts. Children have a way of cutting through the red tape of this world and just being, to bad we lose that child like quality as we get older. Great photo, Minni Joanna!
    Love,
    Chuck

    • Lori

      Chuck,
      You said it perfectly, “a connection is made and that is all that counts”. Isn’t that what is all boils down to between any two people? If you think she looks like Joanna, wait until you experience the El Salvadoran temper!
      Love,
      Lori

  • Anne

    Hi Lori
    Wonderful, well-written and touching on a subject filled with the beauty of little children. They have no baggage to bring to a new relationship, just openness, curiosity and acceptance.
    When any of us come to a new relationship that way, it has a greater chance of becoming something just as wonderful.
    I am glad for Malia, for grandma, and for you.
    Love,
    Anne

    • Lori

      Annie,
      You have heard my stories of Grandma and understand just about more than anyone how much these final days mean to me. What an unexpected gift. That little girl has grown on both of us. I wish I could freeze her at this age!
      Love you!
      Lori

  • Amy

    Lori,
    Your grandma is very luck to have you two come and visit. What a gift and time to treasure of seeing your grandma happy if just for a moment. Feel proud in what you have brought to her and to yourself. It’s funny how children yet so small make such an impact. I hope that this joy continues for her as well as you. What a memory to cherish.
    Thanks for sharing you story.
    Amy

    • Lori

      Amy,
      You have heard many stories of days when the visits did not go as smoothly. It is really nice to have a little friend to bring along who takes the pressure off of me. Malia has truly been a gift to both of us. I really cannot remember seeing my Grandma this happy in many, many years…….
      Lori

  • Mitch

    What a great story. It is amazing the joy kids can bring to the world. If we let them be “kids”they will bring a smile to your face. Even your g-ma. Thank you for sharing that little tidbit.

    • Lori

      Mitch,
      I am glad you enjoyed our story. My Grandma has had a rough exterior for many years. I am not certain Malia could have broken through a few years ago. It has been the perfect timing for all of this to come together perfectly. I could not be happier that it has.
      Lori

  • Michael Thomas

    What a cute story. Up until now, I had no idea you even babysat Malia, and I commend you for helping out a friend in need in that way. I’m excited for you and your experiences with your grandma now that some of here youth has returned in the form of a 2 year old. What a special gift 🙂

    • Lori

      Michael,
      Thanks for commending me, but she has helped me much more than I have helped Joanna and Joaquin. Turns out I am a better “Grandma” then I think I ever would have been a Mom. I sure hope you get the opportunity to have little ones of your own around one day. I have seen you interact with them while on services and you are a natural!
      Lori

  • Kari Lyn Leslie

    Lori,
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us!! I know how great this must be for you. Animals & children seem to lift the spirits of the elderly. I’m so glad it has brought a twinkle back to her eye. Anything that brings JOY into your relationship is a blessing.
    Way to go Malia!!
    kari 😉

    • Lori

      Kari,
      As you and I talked, that kid has it ALL figured out and has since she was an infant. I have spent time with and loved many children over my lifetime. I do not remember any two year old being so advanced. Sorry for all of my friends and family who I am insulting about your kids! I still love them, they just weren’t quite as smart. Lol!
      She does bring us great joy and it is a much better last vision to have of my Grandma. I do not know why I keep saying last. I don’t think she plans on going anywhere.
      Lori

  • Shasta Cola

    Lori,
    What a sweet blog! I have seen how happy Malia has made you, and I love that you are sharing with us the relationship between Malia and your grandma. That is so nice that your grandma and Malia have such a bond, it will be sad when those days are over, but such a gift to all of you. I have not witnessed anything like that in my own life outside of what I have heard from you, but hopefully it happens to many others as well.

  • Lauren

    Thank you so much for sharing!
    I see all the pictures that you post of the two of them and it looks like joy in both of their eyes to be in each other’s company. It’s amazing the warmth that a child can bring and how Malia was able to touch your grandma’s heart!

  • Neil

    Hi Lori –
    What an interesting time in your life it is right now. You have the gift of having your grandmother still in your life and the joy of having Malia too. This makes for a very touching time of opposite perspectives. Your Grandmother’s life of 100 years is amazing, I am sure she has seen so many different things play out in her life. On the other end you have Malia who is just beginning her life, so everything is brand new to her. You have the gift of learning from both generations. I have seen many children bring joy to their elders in good health and not so good health. It is amazing to see how children and animals can transform our lives.

  • Christopher Iverson

    Lori,
    I am anxious to see your grandmother at Malia’s high school graduation!!! I love how Malia brings that joy to your Grandmother at this stage in both of their lives. Happiness is golden and the fact that they are sharing this unique happiness is wonderful. If I ever have the opportunity to experience grandchildren, I hope that it continues into and through any health challenges that I may face in the future.

  • Rosemary

    Lori,
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful look at the relationship between Malia and your grandmother. The gift that they are to each other is absolutely amazing! But so are the gifts they have both brought to your life! May you all continue to enjoy these beautiful blessings together for many years to come!

  • Lori

    Shayna,
    You are right, Malia has brought me just as much joy as she has my Grandma! She is definitely a blessing! You have heard some stories of my Grandma and know how much this happier time means to me. Thank you for always being listening ear when times were tough…
    XOXO
    Lori

  • Jeff Turner

    Lori,
    What a sweet and unexpected gift Malia has given to you and your grandmother. Joanna and Joaquin must be so proud of their girl for bringing so much joy to a lady who needs and deserves it most.

    Jeff

  • Lori

    Sherry,
    I am sorry for the delay in responding. Thank you for reading and commenting on my post. You understand first hand what I have described here. I would love to see your book. Best of luck in getting it published!
    Lori