Go help your grandma in the kitchen

I thought everyone liked to keep busy and welcomed my ideas of what to do. My husband’s wheelchair-bound grandmother informed me otherwise the week I was asked to stay with her and fix her meals while her regular caretaker left town.
The menu for the day included fresh green beans from the garden. I went to the garden, picked the green beans, brought them inside, washed them and handed the bowl to this woman 50 years my senior sitting in a wheelchair, saying, “Here, you can snap the beans.” I turned to work on the rest of the meal.
She sat and snapped beans and handed them back to me as I bustled about the kitchen.
“Thank you for doing that,” I said.
“Well, you told me to do it!” she snapped.
Me? All of 20-plus years old? I had told her, this great-grandmother, to do something?
No, I had just assumed she would want to participate in making the meals.
I stood corrected, but, I still believed that everyone wanted to keep busy, to find something to do with their hands, their time and their energy, to contribute in any way they could.
So at the family camp out in the mountains, I came up with games and activities with rewards to keep the grandchildren busy until they wandered off and generated their own entertainment.
Only one remained. She said, “I don’t care if you give me candy or anything, just tell me something to do.” I suggested that she build a fairy house. She found rocks, twigs and moss to build a fantastic little fairy house. Proving what I always assume: no one wants to just sit around and do nothing.
So a few years later at a family funeral, as the grandchildren moved around restlessly among the strangers called relatives, I suggested that they go and ask folks if they could carry their dirty dishes back to the kitchen. They gathered up dishes, cups, napkins and silverware and came back to ask for more tasks to do. I suggested that they fold up the unused chairs of folks who had said their good-byes and left.
The grandkids began clacking together the chairs as I sat and chatted with a friend from my past. He turned to me and smiled, “You have not changed a bit.”

“What do you mean?”
“You did the same thing when you were a teenager. You were always giving assignments out for others to do.”
I looked at him astounded. Me? No, I just see folks who need something to do. I see things that need to be done and I know how to connect the two.
I think it is genetic because a few years ago, my cousin, sisters and I gathered for a few days at my house. We kept busy sewing, cooking and touring. Watching from the sidelines as we worked intensely, my husband observed, “You Hibbard girls sure are bossy.”
I took umbrage with his observation. We all just know what needs to be done and assume that any person in the room is wondering how they can join us. We obviously had plenty to do and surely no guest would ever sit there while we worked frantically to get things done. We expect the same direction in activities when we visit. After all, that was what happened when we visited with my dad’s parents. If Grandma was working in the kitchen, Dad would look at us and say, “Go out in the kitchen and help your grandmother.”
It was not a suggestion. He never left room to discuss any other option. We went and helped so she could finish her tasks and move into the sitting room to enjoy a visit with her company.
Ironically, we visited my mother’s parents just as often but we never helped that grandmother in the kitchen. If we tried, she told us, “Just let the dishes sit. It will give me something to do after you leave.”
We learned to go straight to the TV room at her house and plop ourselves on the couches and chairs and watch TV until we got sick headaches, someone said it was time to leave or we pulled out a game to play.
Which is what I also expect of visitors, if they don’t want to help, they will simply decline. I won’t insist on their participation. I will, however, secretly wonder why they aren’t doing something to help me move into the sitting room to visit.
Something to think about at this time of year with the gatherings with many family and friends. Everyone needs to remember what my dad said, “go out to the kitchen and help your grandmother.”






2 responses to “Go help your grandma in the kitchen”

  1. Jeremy Stein Avatar

    I particularly liked this story.

  2. jottingjoan Avatar