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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sentimental Sunday: The Cedar Chest

A few years ago, my grandmother called me really excited. She said, “You will never guess what your father just bought me… a cedar chest!” She went on about how beautiful it was, that my dad put it at the foot of her bed and she could not wait to put her winter clothes in it.

When talking to my father later on that night, he said he found the cedar chest at an antique shop and he thought Grand mom would like it. He never thought she would be so ecstatic about a cedar chest. I told him she was filling it up now.

A few months later I went to visit my grandmother (I live in Florida and my grandmother lives in New Jersey) and the first thing she said when I walked into the door was ‘you have to see my cedar chest’. I expected to see something fancy but what I saw was an old beat up cedar chest sitting at the foot of her bed. Laughing, she said, “It is so big you could bury me in it!” Then she opened it to show me how she filled it with all her winter clothes. My grandmother was 92 at this time; however, she sounded like a young girl when she went on and on about how she always wanted a cedar chest and that she was so happy she finally had one.

Now I wanted one. When I returned home to Florida, I spent the following weekend going to antique stores and flea markets to find a cedar chest. I did not find one so I ended up going to a wood furniture store. My husband did not really want a cedar chest at the foot of the bed. He said it would take up too much room and make our bedroom smaller. He knew how much I really wanted one so he said he would buy it for me but I would have to stain it myself. He bought me the cedar chest and all the stuff I needed to stain it. Although it took me several days to sand and stain it, it was beautiful when I was done.

We put the cedar chest at the foot of our bed. My intentions were to put sheets and blankets in there but when I went to do that my husband already had some of his stuff in there. For a person who did not want the chest he sure had it filled up! Now I had a story to tell my grandmother.
In February, my grandmother had fell twice and hurt herself so I flew to NJ as soon as I could. My sister flew in from New York so between the two of us, Grand mom had plenty of help. She had hurt her leg and could hardly walk. She had arthritis in both hands; she could not even hold a coffee cup. Michele and I decided to empty the winter clothes from the cedar chest and put in the clothes that were needed. The cedar chest was close to my grandmother’s bedroom door and was easy to get too in case of a fast change of clothing. 

In April my grandmother fell about four times in two days. Thank God she had her medical alert on and pushed the button for help each time, they call my father first and he goes over to check on her. The last time she fell she told my dad she was ok but the next day she told him her side hurt. My father went to her doctor’s office and they sent a nurse out the next day. The nurse sent her to the hospital. It is a good thing she did Grand mom had four “cracked ribs”. Poor thing! She had to of been in pain. 

I flew to NJ at the end of May because Grand mom kept falling and every time I talked to her she sounded groggy. I needed to make sure she was ok. When I got there things were not good. She was having a hard time getting up and walking even with the walker. She said to me, “Oh Kathy, I don’t know how I ever got this way. Why do I feel so tired?” I said, “Well, Grand mom you never been 94 before.” And she laughed. My sister came from New York to help me. My grandmother got in the habit of sleeping on her couch so my sister and I slept on the floor next to her in case she needed to get up at night. Her hands were getting worse she could not even open them. She needed assistance with everything and I told my father we needed to hire her a personal assistant, my Grandmother said she wanted George Clooney. I stayed for as long as I could. My heart was so torn between my grandmother and my responsibilities back home in Florida. My children are grown and live on their own, I work for my husband and he knows how much I love my grandmother. He always told me to stay as long as I need to and I always have.

On June 24th my brother called me telling me that Grand mom is not feeling well. She is sleeping all the time and her nurse cannot get her to eat anything. I was on the first available flight the next day, so was my sister. She does not look good. 

We do not know if Grand mom has a kidney infection or is in kidney failure. My father took her to the doctors on wed and the doctor wanted her to go to the hospital, but Grand mom refused to go. So they put a cath in her and sent her home. It takes Michele and me everything we have to sit her up and lay her down.

The following day she said she wanted to go to the hospital. My sister could not pack a bag fast enough. We called 911 and off she went. My grandmother was in the hospital for 9 days. My sister and I practically lived there because we did not want to leave her and she did not want us to go. Each day she was getting worse. The doctors basically told us there was nothing they could do… she was dying of old age, (as she would say 94 years young) and her body was shutting down. The last two days she did not know who we were.

 My grandmother’s wish was to die at home and it took a whole day to get her released from the hospital.  Grand mom was home for about a half an hour and with her family by her side, she passed away. I was holding her hand at the time… she looked so peaceful. 

A few days after the funeral we all gathered at my grandmother’s house and my dad and aunt called me into Grand mom’s room. They said they would like me to have Grand mom’s cedar chest and then he opened one of Grand mom’s dresser drawers. It was filled with pictures… it never was before. He said I could have all of the pictures. I told him thank you but that I felt uncomfortable taking it since we just buried Grand mom and he said he understood. I thought about it for two days. I know how much Grand mom loved that cedar chest. I talked to my husband (he drove down for the services) about it and he said, “Take it before someone else does and who knows what will happen to it. It will make a great storage place for all of your family history stuff and we have the truck now.” So I decided to take it. As I was putting the pictures in the cedar chest I found some neat stuff: a civil war certificate of an honorable discharge on my great great grandfather and a very old picture of my grandfather’s sister that he never met because she died before he was born. I could have been there for hours looking at pictures but I needed to get going because we were leaving the next day and had to pack. The cedar chest was carefully loaded into the back of the truck. I still felt guilty about taking it. It belongs at the foot of my grandmother’s bed.

The cedar chest now sits in my guest bedroom at the food of the bed. My daughter and I looked through the pictures the other day. Some of the pictures are very old and have no names or dates on them so I do not know who they are. There are also newspaper clippings, letters, and 8 mm film. My grandfather took a lot of movies when he was alive (he died in 1979). I plan on getting the film onto DVD’s and make copies for everyone. I did not go through everything yet. It is going to take time. 

It has been almost three weeks since my grandmother died and every once in a while I go to the bedroom door just to look at the cedar chest. It is hard to believe that it is at my house now.

I think I will go look at it again…


michele said...

I am happy it is in your home <3
The story made me cry ...

Karen said...

What an awesome gift! When my husbands grandmother died we found an album in her home. None of the photo's had been identified. I checked and the USGEN web project county site had a photo's section. I submitted the images to the website. Within six months someone who knew the family members in the photo's emailed me and identified all but three of the images. All is not lost. Those photo's can be identified.

Kathleen said...

Great idea! I will try to do that...thank you Karen.

valine said...

wow mom. that was beautifully said. u made me mess up my make up. i couldnt help but laugh about her wanting george clooney. boy is she funny! I know its hard mom. i do too think about her everyday and how i wish i had gotten up there like i was planning. im sad when i think about it. but please quit counting the days. ur only torturing yourself. i am happy you got the chest she loved so very much before it did end up somewhere else. n now u have beautiful story to tell and a treasure box filled with wonderful memories... i love you mom.