To Grandmother's House We Go

Friday, May 12, 2017
Grand Junction, Colorado, United States
The very first stop on our grand family USA tour was Grand Junction, Colorado. Whenever I visit, I always think of retired folks and ranches. It's actually a very beautiful little town set in a beautiful valley with hills and cliffs surrounding it. The Colorado River runs through parts of it and so do several train lines and a canal. We found out that the canal is used for irrigation. During our visit it was very full and looked like it could have overflowed its banks at any time, but it stayed right where it was and headed down its path.

My grandmother, Nettie Hotz lives in this little town . She grew up not far from here near Colorado Monument. Her stories of growing up actually sound a lot like how people live in Malawi - no shoes during warmer months, wells and outhouses, no electricity, only being able to grow crops when the rains come, and many more hardships that I definitely cannot quite relate to. Somehow she survived and is nearly 90. Actually I think she may be 90 by this time. Her birthday was sometime after our visit.

Many of you may know a grandmother or two who are very independent, who have lived a hard life, who don't understand their own limits as they age, who have been in near perfect health for quite some time but haven't quite realized that their health status has recently changed. My grandmother fits well in that category for sure. She has lived a healthy life for a long time, watching everything she eats and drinks very carefully, walking places as often as she could even into her late 80's. This practice has served her well, having survived my grandfather, cancer, and heart problems . She knows she is slowing down, but up until the day we arrived to see her, she still insisted on walking two miles down to a local food bank with a shopping cart, and then attempting to haul a very large, very packed cart full of all kinds of food stuffs back two miles to her house all by herself.

We had decided to rent a car in Grand Junction, and were able to do so with only minimal cost thanks to airline miles from recent travel ventures. That's actually how we were able to afford flying all over the US on this trip to visit our family. We arrived in the morning and drove the short distance from the very quaint regional airport to downtown Grand Junction. When we were just around the corner from Grandma's place, I got a phone call from my dad in Washington. Apparently my grandmother had tipped her shopping cart over not far from the community food bank, landing on her right shoulder. There were some breaks inside that would need repairs. Her explanation was that she knew she should slow down, but thought she would try just once more to run her own errands and push her own cart down the street . After that it was supposed to be over. And now that she won't be able to push any carts, she is forced to give up her independent ways for a while.

It turns out she will be just fine now that doctors completed shoulder surgery and have begun rehab. I am so thankful that we were able to be there for her at just that moment, although I am sure our visit would have been a lot more enjoyable had she not gotten hurt in the first place. Some family friends were able to pick her up from the hospital before we arrived, but we showed up just in time to take over for them when they had to leave. Immediately we said our hellos and set out to pick a few things up around town to make sure Grandma was comfortable.

My cousin, Jazmine, who lives only a few hours drive away and visits on a regular basis, had planned a visit the very next day. Thankfully she was able to stay even longer, through the weekend and into the next week, making sure Grandma made all her appointments and wasn't left alone for too long . Given the circumstances, we had a very pleasant visit, learning more about my family and how much like my grandmother I actually am in some ways.

Broken shoulders aside, Grand Junction is a very beautiful little place, although it was cold and rainy when we arrived. As Winter began to move in to Malawi, we left before the cold came, but arrived in the US during what seemed to be a nationwide cold snap. Every where we went, people would tell us just how nice and sunny it had been the day before we arrived. There were no exceptions. Grand Junction was filled with gray skies and raindrops when we arrived. It did start to warm up for us by the second day, or at least get sunny. By our third day there, I actually took off my jacket outside. And then we were on to the next stop where clouds and rain were sure to greet us.
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