I loved baths as a kid and would sit with a novel and read for hours, soaking and basking in the quietness and warmth and stories, for a long time each night. J takes baths and I admire that he does it, enjoys it, takes care of himself to relax in that way, because for me, relaxing seems to go by the wayside for the most part. Somehow though, I can settle down inside and take a break when I am hanging out with him.
It got me thinking about my grandparents this weekend, when I was visiting J, and he started filling up the tub for us.
My grandfather would clean out the tub and fill it, for my grandmother’s daily soak. Up until my grandfather passed away when I was 23, I know that he cleaned and filled the tub for her nearly every day.
You may think she had been an invalid, but she wasn’t. She was an interior decorator in Los Angeles, was the ultimate socialite and kept an immaculate home. She had dinner parties every weekend and held luncheons in the summer. All my life, I thought of Nana as a strong and independent woman, because she made decisions and walked and talked, proud and put together.
But when Papa passed away in 1996, the reality came to the forefront. He was no longer there to fill the tub for her and what came to light was that Nana knew so much about life on the surface but when it came down to the nitty gritty of bills and business and things as simple as balancing a checkbook or having an estate plan, she had failed. She became helpless and lost.
What I admire most is that she rose up out of that quickly and learned it all. She closed her own business and started to run my grandfather’s, for many years. She ran the household more efficiently. She paid bills and budgeted. She invested. She also became humble as she educated herself, became unafraid to ask questions and then went on her merry way, something I never saw in my first 23 years with her. She depended on no one.
When I was 30, Nana passed away. I was pregnant with Blue and flew out to see her as she was not expected to live much longer than a few more weeks. Our conversations consisted of womanhood and parenthood, independence and love. And one of the things she reminded me, was to never be left in a lurch. It was important for her to remind me of that.
Something that I remembered as I was going through my divorce was how I wanted to always be sure I could take care of myself, that I didn’t need to depend on someone for daily tasks or things that I am too lazy to figure out just because the other person happens to do them for me. I proudly took everything on, on my own. It was liberating and empowering. I expected nothing from anyone.
I’ve realized recently that it’s okay to have some help. That it’s not terribly hurtful to ask for a favor or to express humility in not being able to do something on my own. In admitting the need for help actually projects towards those I am asking, “you are needed” and “you are wanted”.
My grandfather made breakfast for my grandmother almost every morning, drew her bath daily, and protected her from the one thing that she needed the most, tools to take care of herself.
J brought up the idea a while ago, after he learned that I moved half a tree from my parking spot here at home, in the driving rain, on my own (without waiting for him to arrive an hour later and ask for his help), that I needed to be a bit better at asking for help, that I don’t need to and can’t do everything on my own.
I’m working on it, but honestly, so far, he’s doing great things on his own. As great as a natural reassurance he expresses about his going away for a few months to play down south, and as simple as his turing my car around in his driveway, so that when I left at 5am the next morning, I would be able to just pull straight out onto the road. And as whole and real as his presence with me when we are together, or the way his voice sounds when he calls and calls me “Baby“.
I am reminded of Nana every day when I use the silver flatwear that she left me in her will. When my kids weigh things in the antique baker’s scale in my kitchen, when I put on a pair of earrings that I know she wore to her own wedding. And I have a sense of peace about being able to love and be loved, ask for help and appreciate having my bath drawn…all while being capable of “doing life”, all on my own.
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