Getting even one chance this year to visit my family in Texas has been tough. Missing some important events earlier this year like my aunt’s funeral and my cousin’s wedding upset me quite a bit. Something wonderful happened in June however. My wife got a call from her Dad to let us know his frequent flyer miles were about to expire. It so happened that he had enough credit to purchase each of us an airline ticket to travel to our respective family’s homes in Georgia and Texas. Living in New Jersey since last fall has opened our eyes to many new things, but being away from my family since my wedding in 2010 has not been easy.
My grandmother in San Antonio was at the top of my list. I knew her health had been failing a bit at a mere 91 years of age. Little did I know after talking with her for a few days that she had had a mild stroke the year before. My aunt had sent me a photograph of her in a temporary nursing home, but I had very little knowledge of why she was there. Her ability to walk had been impaired. She was taking medication and improving every week. Her speech on the phone for several months had been noticeably less expressive and slower. I was pleasantly surprised to hear her speak again like the grandmother I’ve known for a very long time after spending this time with her a few weeks ago.
An independent woman like my grandmother continues to manage most affairs of running a household. Of course, my aunt is only a phone call away and for many years has lived no more than 80 feet away from her back door. Learning the news of my grandmother’s recovery gave me more encouragement to re-introduce to her the game of chess. She knew of the game through her father who was an avid player, but in that time chess was almost exclusively played by men of stature and perceived intellect. I explained to her that chess does offer an intellectual challenge, but can be taught to anyone and practiced.
She thought this would be okay, but in exchange for her concentration to learn something new I first had to – you guessed it – a few chores around her house.