The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Living (with Grandma)

You know how sometimes when you go to bed, you think back on your day and what you've accomplished (and haven't accomplished) is radically different than what you were planning in your head that morning?

If you had asked me last August what I was going to do in the next year, I would have said find a great job in Minneapolis, live with a couple stellar roommates, bike all over the city, and drink delicious beer.

I don't have an eloquent synopsis of the last year of my life to offer you. My story doesn't come together like a pretty gift with a perfectly tied bow on top. But most of life isn't like that, anyway.

What happened instead is this: last August I got a call from my parents that my grandma, my dad's mom, was sick. They didn't know what kind of sick or how long she would be sick, but as I didn't have a job situation figured out in Minneapolis yet, I decided to to back to Iowa for a few weeks and live with Grandma.

I continued to apply and interview for jobs in Minneapolis, but after we found out that she, in fact, had cancer and that it was, in fact, terminal, I officially moved to Iowa, found a job in Iowa City, and started learning how to live with Grandma.

One of the first things I realized was that Grandma knew a lot of people in that town. She had a ridiculous amount of visitors. So I taped a sign to the door that went to the garage (we always left the garage open) that said "Come on in!" and we became quite used to people coming into and out of the house regularly. I've also come to decide that it's a great life motto.

Grandma also received tons of cards and phone calls. We couldn't leave the house without coming back to a voicemail on the answering machine.

I've always said that people learn a lot about each other when they move in together, and I found that to be true with Grandma. I made her go to bed at 10:00 (by telling her all the grandmas go to bed at 10) and every night she would tease me about why she shouldn't have to go. I learned that she liked her kitchen a certain way, and even though she was no longer cooking food, I would never be allowed to change it. I saw the way she moved her index finder when she was thinking hard about something, the way she always answered the phone so full of energy, even if she didn't have any, and her love of watching the news three times a day.

I lived with her during the week and my aunt stayed on weekends, so I got to see a lot of friends this past year. I was everywhere from Colorado to Vermont, and dozens of places in between. I also got a massive amount of family time, as my parents visited Grandma and I twice a week, my aunt and uncle lived in town, and my aunt came every weekend.

This summer, my girlfriend, Lisa, came to Iowa and lived with Grandma and I, and I loved to joke about Grandma and her lesbian roommates. But the arrangement was good for everyone. Lisa and I went to six weddings this summer, and a couple days after she moved to Iowa, she, Grandma, my parents, my aunt, and my cousin watched me run the Minneapolis Marathon.

I was asked by a lot of people in the last year why I made the decision to move in with Grandma. The truth is, it just always felt like the right choice. We didn't always get along, but we had a pretty good time together. We laughed a lot. We walked all over the neighborhood together. We got lots of bonding time.

Grandma passed away at the beginning of August and my family and Grandma's friends (and she had a lot of them) mourned the loss of a fantastic woman.

I don't know what I'd be doing right now if I had stayed in Minneapolis, but the detour never felt like the wrong decision. Two weeks after the funeral, Lisa and I moved to Michigan's Upper Peninsula where she'll finish her last year of school. And me? I'm excited for a new adventure.

It's been a year of life and of death. But mostly life.

Thanks for joining me,


  1. I loooved hearing stories about your grandma this past year. :) I love and miss you Kelsey. <3

    xo Madie

  2. Such a sweet story. You are awesome! I don't think your grandma could have had a better year!


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