Love works differently

Reflecting on the story of love.

The day was sharp with cold but the sky was clear, and my grandmother wanted a walk. I’d come all this way, after all, she reminded me. No point in wasting the day inside.

She lived alone in the last of her little houses, and, as a university student, I could get there on the bus. She was getting old and beginning to get confused, but we weren’t yet making other arrangements. She liked to be independent.

The walk she wanted led us down towards the sea along a hard path then turned up towards the churchyard where she could lean on the wall if she was tired. She told me she wouldn’t take a walking stick that day; she got better exercise without it. We both put on our scarves and coats, and I watched to be sure hers was zipped up against the cold. Then the wind pushed noisily against the door and my grandmother put her hand on the knob.

Behind her, on the table in the hallway, I noticed her mittens, picked them up and handed them to her. She shook her head. No, she wouldn’t need them. There was plenty of sunshine today, she said. I wasn’t sure how to tell my grandmother what to do.

My mother would have coped just fine. She knew how to talk to her mother. Later, when my grandmother’s confusion settled in, my mother would sit with her and tell her stories of things that happened decades before and when my grandmother said she couldn’t remember, my mother would hold her hand and tell her it was alright. I’ll remember for you, she’d say gently.

I looked down at the mittens now and suggested I put them in her pockets, just in case. She was sceptical and still a little fierce but obliged, letting me tuck them away before we went out into the wind.

She told me she didn’t like being old, that she didn’t recommend it. She didn’t feel old; inside she felt the same as she always had, only now she had to cope with things like swollen ankles and stiff legs if she was on her feet too long. That day, she walked quickly and I kept up, the wind pushing against us both. I was glad of my scarf and hunched my shoulders to stay warm.

Halfway through our walk, she reached into her pockets, the look on her face strange – somehow misplaced but also delighted. She told me that her mother was right after all, insisting she bring her mittens along. Her mother must have known how cold she’d be, only now her hands were warm. She clapped her hands together and we kept walking.

She’d forgotten the time. Forgotten who told her to bring her mittens.

Part of me found this slip heartbreaking. I didn’t know what to do with the knowledge that her memory was failing. Another part of me listened and found love, because my grandmother’s broken memory returned her mother to her. I had worried about the wind and her old, cold hands, but she reached into her pocket and found her mother’s love.

I’ve told this story before and I’m remembering it now because the weather is cold and we’re getting close to my grandmother’s December birthday. It’s been many years since she died; her name has long been carved on a stone in the churchyard we walked past together, but the story doesn’t end. Love works differently. Her story became part of my story, and the love she knew is the love she passed on to her daughter, to me, to my children. The brokenness of age and memory just let me see that more clearly.


  • Katie Munnik

    Katie is an Ottawa writer living in Cardiff with her spouse and three growing children. You can also find Katie on Twitter @messy_table.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *