Visiting Extended Family

Hi all. Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is contact with extended family and especially the coming together and leaving.

When I was a child, my extended family lived all over the country. For reference, I live in the Netherlands, so “all over the country” means anyone was still within a three-hour driving distance. However, we didn’t visit with extended family very often. I rarely saw my aunts and uncles except at my grandparents’ house. As for those, we visited my maternal grandparents several times a year even though they lived closer by where I lived as a young child than my paternal grandmother. My paternal grandmother, we saw most often and had sleepovers with each summer and sometimes at Christmas too.

I don’t think we had any rituals for the coming together. For leaving, my paternal grandmother wanted to give everyone a kiss on the cheek. I didn’t mind and hardly even noticed it until she wanted to give my husband a kiss when we last saw her in 2016. My husband politely refused.

Like I said, my sister and I had regular sleepovers at my paternal grandmother’s house. We always slept on thick matresses on the floor, but they felt pretty comfy nonetheless. My grandmother made her own quilts, so she probably lay one of them over us as a duvet.

As for my paternal grandfather, I only ever visited him for day trips, but my sister once went on a week-long trip on my grandfather’s powerboat with him. They actually slept on board.

I can’t remember whether I found saying goodbye to extended family after a visit was over difficult or not. It probably depended on how well I liked said family member.

That brings me to the question of which family member I would like to bring back to life for a visit. I’d certainly choose my paternal grandmother. I have talked positively about her many times before. She declined a lot both cognitively and physically over the last few years of her life and I didn’t feel comfortable visiting her anymore during the last eighteen months she lived. Even so, I know she remained resilient up till the end and, when she could no longer take it, I know she had seriously exhausted all possibilities of remaining optimistic. She died during palliative sedation on May 12, 2018. If I could bring her back to life for a visit, I’d tell her I’m still happily married to Jeroen. For those who don’t know, my paternal grandmother was my official witness during the wedding ceremony.

Quilting: My Grandmother’s Creative Passion #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter Q post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I am not going to share about one of my own creative pursuits, but about my grandmother’s main creative passion. My paternal grandmother was one of my main sources of inspiration in many ways.

My grandmother loved quilting. She at one point went to Amish country in Pennsylvania to learn from the people there. By the time I was born, she was pretty good at quilting already, so good even that her quilts were shown at exhibits internationally.

She made a bed quilt for each of her granddaughters (and one of her grandsons, because he specifically asked for one too). Mine, a quilt with lots of images of animals on it, was shown at an exhibit in France. My sister’s quilt was a simpler-looking patchwork design.

When my sister and I were young, we’d often go for sleepovers at my grandmother’s house. She would then take us to the “activity group”, which was a group of ladies gathering weekly in a room at a local estate to do quilting and other fiber arts. I loved working with the fabrics, even though I never even could do basic hand sewing, let alone work the sewing machine or quilt.

My grandmother made quilts until a few years before she died in 2018. We got a quilt she created in 2014 at what would turn out to be my and my husband’s last visit to her in 2016. I fully intended on taking a picture, thinking I had it here with me, but I can’t find it now. Think it’s at my and my husband’s house in Lobith.

I did find a small pillow that my grandma had quilted and which I took with me after her funeral (we were all encouraged to take one or more of her quilts).

When she could no longer quilt due to her eyesight failing, my grandma started knitting. Even when she was put under palliative sedation, according to my aunt, her hands still moved as though she were working with yarn or fabric.

Even though I did not inherit my grandmother’s love for quilting or yarn-based crafts, or her skill for that matter, I do believe I inherited some of her creative spirit and I don’t just mean in the crafting department. My grandmother knew what she wanted and went for it. I am the same.

Mentors and Role Models

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is mentors and role models. Of course, last week, I already shared about my high school tutor, who was a mentor when I was a teen. Today, I’m going to share about other role models.

One of my first role models was my paternal grandmother. She was a fiercely independent, self-determined woman. In 1973, a year after women were legally equal to men here in the Netherlands, she divorced my grandpa. She went to college to become a social worker, eventually becoming the head of social work at the psychiatric institution in her area. In the mid-1990s, in her early 70s, she founded a senior citizens’ living complex, where she lived for nearly 20 years until she needed to go into a care home. She died in 2018 at the age of 94.

One clear memory I have of my grandmother that has stuck with me throughout life and which perhaps unintentionally inspired me, is her comment about her work as a social worker with troubled young people. She told me that, when some young people don’t want to go home to their parents, she had to sometimes honor the teens’ wishes rather than the parents’. Even though I was 19 when first going against my parents’ wishes, and their wish wasn’t for me to live with them, the point was that my opinion mattered even if I was “crazy”.

Later, when I was a teen and young adult, I sought out role models who shared some of my experiences. One of my first role models in this category was someone I met through an E-mail list for my eye condition. She was in her early thirties when we first met online and I was seventeen. Besides blindness, we had some other experiences in common. We eagerly read each other’s online diaries back in the day. She is still a Facebook friend of mine, but, because she has moved on to become more or less successful at life and work and I haven’t, we don’t share the same life experiences anymore.

Some people I considered inspiring, I never even talked to, such as Cal Montgomery, a disability activist whose article, “Critic of the Dawn”, I first read in like 2006.

Currently, indeed, what I look for in an inspiring person or role model is shared experience. That being the case, I consider many of the people I’m on E-mail lists or in Facebook groups with to be inspiring. Then though, our interactions are more based on equality, where any of us can be the inspiration for the others.

I don’t think that I quite have what it takes to be a mentor myself. Though I can provide people with inspiration and information, I don’t really have my life together enough to be a role model. This saddens me, thinking about the fact that I’m older now than the woman I met at seventeen was when we first met.

What do you look for in a role model?

What Day Is It Anyway? (March 24, 2020) #WDIIA

Okay, so I’m back with another #WDIIA post. As I write this, it’s March 24, 2020, 8:50PM. My paternal grandmother, my last living grandparent, the one who died in 2018, would’ve turned 96 today. It’s weird that I think about that now, as I didn’t call her for her birthday for the last several years of her life. She was profoundly hearing impaired and had severe memory loss. Then again, I could’ve sent cards, but didn’t. I do miss her though. Still, I am thankful that she doesn’t have to suffer through the COVID-19 thing.

I awoke at 8:36 this morning. Had a quick wash, brushed my teeth and got dressed. Had another bowl of yoghurt with crunchy muesli for breakfast. Thank goodness they still had full-fat yoghurt. I normally have fat-free yoghurt, but the unbranded ones are so extremely watery they’re really disgusting.

I went for two walks today, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Didn’t go for a walk in the evening this time, but did go on the elliptical for twenty minutes. I went on it for twenty minutes yesterday too and only burned 66 calories according to my Fitbit. Today I burned 90. That’s not very good, as a brisk walk burns off more. Still, I’m feeling my legs and back now. Besides, burning calories isn’t the only benefit of exercise. I do really hope that, when I can get weighed in again, I’ll have lost weight. I usually get weighed in at the day center once a month, but not sure that will be happening now.

The week’s groceries arrived today. Tomorrow, we’re going to make toasted ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch. I’m looking forward to that.

Not much else happened today. How has your day been?