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Growing Up With Gramma

Artist Gregory Myrick
My grandmother was pretty old by the time I remember anything about her. She was about 70 when I was born (70 was older then...). I do have very fond memories of her: visiting her home in Detroit and playing on her back stoop, playing cards. My mom says that if there were four people in a room, Gramma would set up a card table. She was a great cook, and a classy dresser.

When I was a young teen, it became apparent to the family that Gramma couldn't live on her own anymore. So, she came to live with us. My mom was working full-time and my sister and I were often charged with Gramma's care: getting her dressed, to the toilet, making her breakfast, etc. She was feisty and often cross, but not a burden in any way. In fact, I think every young teen should have to do this: it taught me an awful lot about charity at an age when selfish was all I wanted to be.

Enter Democratic representative Jim McDermott. He's pushing a Medicaid program (now, I do believe there are people who need help with health care, so don't go all socialist on me), but here is how he's doing it. He's asking us to pity him because of his grandmother:

When I grew up, my grandmother had four daughters, and she spent three months with each one of them. And she had no Medicare, she had no Social Security. And she lived with her daughters. And we took care of her. I mean, I got thrown out of my bedroom. My bedroom became grandma's bedroom, I slept on the couch in the living room, because that's the way families took care of their seniors before 1964.

Now we have a Medicare program, where my father -- and my father lived to 93, my mother to 97 -- and my brothers and sisters and I did nothing for them, except pay their taxes.
"I got thrown out of my bedroom"? "I did nothing for them"? Well, Jim...that wouldn't fly in my family. (In my family, unless you're paying the mortgage, it isn't "your" bedroom, anyway.)

My gramma was not a burden but a blessing. We got up in the middle of the night when she needed to use the toilet, listened to her talk in German at the dinner table, made her eggs with salsa, combed her hair and painted her nails. Was it fun? No. Was it something two teenage girls wanted to do every day? No.  Is it something every family can do? No.

Was it right? Yes. Was it a blessing? Yes. Poor Jim: he just can't see that. I hope his grandmother never knew how he felt.

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