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Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.

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January 22nd, 2013

Fading with Age

 
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This year La Lupe will turn 85. I’ve seen La Lupe through many different lenses during my life. When I was little, I saw her through the yelling-all-the-time-at-my-cousins-but-not-me-because-I’m-her-favorite lens. In college I began to appreciate her for more than just her great cooking. I began to appreciate her experience and wisdom. But then I started to make decisions that she didn’t necessarily agree with, so I saw her through an oh-this-is-what-it-feels-like-to-get-on-the-bad-side-of-La-Lupe lens. But I still appreciated where she was coming from. Now I can see her through my motherhood-makes-all-of-us-crazy-so-I-get-you-way-better-now lens. Every time we visit with La Lupe, my perspective of her changes a bit.

But now after so many years, La Lupe is finally starting to show signs of aging. Until recently her mind has been really sharp but we see some fuzziness starting to overcome her. She has been rock solid for so long that this turn of events has left me trying to figure out how to feel about it and how to act around her.

This year spending the holidays with her was wonderful but things were different. Her humor has begun to dim. All too often, as people age, bitterness and anger begin to creep into an otherwise joyful soul. I see this happening to La Lupe. I heard less fun gossip — like funny things my little cousins are doing — and heard more mean gossip. Complaining became the default during conversation rather than laughing.

When I stop and think about why this happens to older people, I can understand. As people age they feel less useful. And many times they are scared of finding a new meaning for their life. The useless feeling starts to make them depressed; then they get bitter and angry. While they still love their family, they just sit around stewing about problems or past injuries. This makes them more bitter, and they start to push away those who continue to love them and want to spend time with them. They begin to isolate themselves while telling themselves that other people are the ones leaving them out.

It is hard to see someone you love going through this. You want to shake them and tell them to snap out of it. You want to ask them why the love that you have for them isn’t enough to make them happy anymore. Why isn’t the time I spend with you joyful enough to light this dark place you are in? Why can’t you see how much everyone still loves you? Why can’t you understand that even if no one depends on you anymore that doesn’t make you useless? You love them for all the love they’ve shown you and you want them to realize that they can still show their love to others through any disability or handicap. You want to make them feel how much they are still worth in your eyes and the eyes of God.

Of course, not all our time with La Lupe was frustrating but it did have its moments. A few days before the end of our vacation, I stopped to think about everything that had happened on this trip. But instead of being eager for the last days to hurry and pass, I found myself still very sad to leave her. Just thinking about leaving made me miss her. And I sat and cried out of thankfulness that even in her present state, I’d still rather be with La Lupe than not.

La Lupe is still a force to be reckoned with. During the holidays we still had moments of laughing so hard we cried. Sometimes we would sit and talk and she would tell me the same stories she always tells, of her childhood, of raising her kids, and I felt home. Her love for us is still clear. She still showers us in hugs and kisses and blessings at every goodbye. She still broke down crying when we left. She still is La Lupe. And all I have to do is still love her even in this new stage of life we’ve reached. I can imagine all the imperfections and tough times she has seen her kids and grandkids through. She deserves the same unconditional love that she has shown others. In fact, that’s really all we can do, keep loving her and hope that she, deep down, knows how much she is loved.

 
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The Author : Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft
Vanessa, a Notre Dame grad, loves the Catholic Worker Movement, Catholic education, and overbearing Mexican mothers, which she may or may not be. She lives in Austin with her husband and three daughters and is a freelance writer. You can find Vanessa at v.kraft.im or follow Vanessa on Twitter @laluped.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Veronica

    I know how you feel about La Lupe and her advancing years and the personality changes. In my case, it’s my mother’s Alzheimer’s that has caused the personality changes in her. She was diagnosed in 2009; at that time, she cooked and cleaned and cared for me, even thought I was a grown-up and could do all those chores myself. Now…she is in a skilled nursing facility…and I miss her so much. She is here on earth physically…but mentally, she is in her childhood home, or in our old home where she raised four children as a divorced mother. Some days when I go visit her, she knows me; some days, she’ll ask me “How’s your mother?”. And she lashes out in frustration and fear, and I have to remind myself, “It’s not her…it’s the disease”. It breaks my heart, but I give my sorrow up to God, and ask Him to grant both of us strength and courage for the coming days, weeks, years…however long I have, to spend with her. Enjoy your time with La Lupe. I will enjoy my time with Mom.

  • http://twitter.com/LaurelBreeze Zachary Hubbard

    Vanessa,

    The elderly, like La Lupe and my long departed grandmother Myrtle, are gifts from God. They are also part of our national treasure. As a nation, as churches and as individuals we must all strive to treat them with the utmost care and respect. Enjoy La Lupe’s remaining days, but rejoice knowing that the moment she departs this place she will be able to look directly at the face of God.
    Blessings,
    Zachary
    Leviticus 19:32
    You shall rise before the aged, and defer to the old; and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.”

    Isaiah 46:4
    Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
    I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

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