Thursday, December 29, 2011


“You can use your fingers to pick that up, Abuela.” I tried to intercept my 100-year-old grandmother's attempt to scoop up a Ritz cracker with tuna onto her spoon.

“It's OK to use your fingers to eat it. The spoon won't work very well.” Seeming not to hear me, my Abuela (grandmother in Spanish) continued to slide the cracker around the plate on the tip of her spoon, intent on her task. Finally I had to gently remove the spoon from her hand and place the cracker between her thumb and forefinger. “It's much easier this way! You can just eat it with your fingers.”

She looked at me a bit blankly, smiling weakly. But she quietly ate the cracker and tuna. Yet not more than twenty seconds later, she was once again chasing another cracker around the plate with her spoon.

Sighing, I tried to keep my voice cheerful. “You can just pick that up with your fingers, Abuela. It's much easier to eat it with your fingers.” This process was repeated at least six times – once for every cracker on her plate.

After about cracker number four, I was ready to confiscate the spoon AND the crackers. This was going to be a long meal.

Multiple strokes over the last few years and creeping dementia cause Abuela to revert to child-like behavior at times. When I'm getting frustrated with having to remind her something for the umpteenth time, I think about all she's lived through in the last century. Raising five children in Cuba, Spain and Morocco. Serving in missions with her husband on three continents. A faithful wife for over 60 years until my grandpa went to be with Jesus in 2004. A grandmother of seventeen, and a great-grandmother of eighteen.

How many nights has Abuela rocked her children and grandchildren to sleep on her lap? How many lives has she touched with her organ and accordion music in church services, or with her services as a capable secretary and accountant, or by her gentle smiles and encouraging words, or with her biscuits and roast beef and rhubarb pies cooked with love? My grandmother is a remarkable woman, and it's a privilege to care for her in the sunset years of her life. And if she wants to use her spoon to try to pick up her Ritz crackers, why shouldn't she? At 100 years old, she's earned the right to eat her crackers and tuna however she wants to!