I wrote in earlier posts about how sad I was that I would not be able to make it back to Chicago or Omaha for Christmas, but fate played a double-edged hand (and mixed metaphor), and because of a scary and sudden change in my grandmother's health, I found myself deep in the Midwest.

Gather we did. Here I am with my aunt and uncle from Sun Valley, and my dear grandmother, Agnes:

Of course you know that 95 is quite old, and that eventually there will be a lessening of the mind and weakness of the body, but nothing can prepare you for the frustration loved ones feel in the process. Last summer we made fudge and potato salad and lasagna together, with these hands:

It would be impossible to overstate my grandma's influence on my life. Her unerring taste was what interested me in design, and for most of my life she lived in an exquisitely beautiful house of the edge of a bluff and large park. Almost half the square footage was taken up by an extraordinary greenhouse. There were orchids and oranges and poinsettias the size of large bushes. Why must care for the elderly always take place in dim rooms with cinder block walls?

She is well cared for, her health stabilized, but the change of affairs is sad. I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, and she answered without pause that she could always use some Chanel No.5, and a Rolls Royce never hurt. She was only half-kidding, of that you can be sure. But mostly we played cards and gossiped about stars she had met in the 30s: Sonia Henie (the great figure skater, movie star and Nazi), Barbara Stanwyck and Betty Rogers.

Here my brother, father and grandma play peanuckle:

This one goes out to you, grandma. Let's make 2010 great, and celebrate 96 in the Fall.


Allyson said...

I love this. I'm really close to my grandpa who's health has been in the decline lately, so I've been a sucker for grandparents these last few months. I also love that tied fleece blanket on your grandma's lap. It doesn't get more midwestern than that!

Nick Heywood said...

Ugh, I know ... I tried to avoid the fleece in images (mostly because it is so visually distracting), but it is very warm. My aunt kindly made it, but it is not exactly my grandma's taste. She erred on the side of Chanel, mostly, which shows a bit in what she's wearing.

Thank you for the kind thoughts, and I hope your grandfather makes it through his current health problems.

Mlle Paradis said...

What a sweet post Nick! Glad you got to see your family. Thanks for sharing your visit with us. All best wishes for your Grandma. We can tell she has great style. Doesn't she have any good suggestions for your plant stand?

Nick Heywood said...

Well, her suggestions would most likely be plants that I can't possibly keep alive without a great deal of work. Her preference is for orchids and bromeliads, which my grandfather had timed to bloom in the greenhouse year round. Personally, I'm thinking African violets, because there is so much variety, and they are relatively easy to care for, though I am actually pretty good with plants. Otherwise, I've always loved native ferns, and those I could collect locally at no cost. Levels of light vary greatly in our apartment, but where it will most likely end up is rather dim.

Mlle Paradis said...

Since I'm not gardening in LA at the moment Nick, it turns me into a gardening busybody.....so bear with me! Actually African Violets were my first thought for your stand. I'm sure Martha did some years ago in exactly such a stand. But you know, if you wanted to leave the stand in the bathroom and your window faces the north, you COULD do orchids. (Think of it as a challenge.) Or right away, force some bulbs. Nothing is nicer in the winter time. I did narcissus in my bathroom one year. You'll just have to resist throwing your clothes on them! Keep us posted!

Daniel-Halifax said...

Geez what a touching post! That picture of the hands really got me. My grandma is also 95 and the last grandparent I have. She's where I get my wise assness from, love of Danish Modern and Cristobal Balenciaga. Thank you!

Nick Heywood said...

Daniel, our grandmas would probably get along -- mine also loved Balenciaga and went modern with furniture, though her taste ran closer to Dunbar. And I won't even get into her sense of humor. Let's just say, she's no longer censoring her stories, to my great delight.

Ms. Paradis, I welcome the suggestions, and in truth I'm tempted to try orchids. But I do love forcing ... too many options! Now I'm thinking of old-fashioned geraniums. Have any experience with those?

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