Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.

Brown sugar


I think about Aunt Vi nearly every morning. Some of you will remember she was my husband’s aunt who lived to be 102.5 years old.

She liked to use that extra .5, because at her age, every month counted. Kind of like a little girl who might answer the question about her age with “4 and a half!” eager to head to kindergarten when she turned five.

Back in her younger days

Anyway, I think about her most days as I make my morning oatmeal. During her last year of life she lived in a nursing home, where the only meal she would eat was her breakfast oatmeal. And the only thing that made that meal edible was the brown sugar she kept in a baggie in her nightstand drawer.

At her 100th birthday party.

She showed me that bag on one of my visits, a worn out baggie, opened and closed numerous times. The kind where you have to line up the two sides correctly to get the bag to seal.

At 101, still at home with her bird Charlie

It it wasn’t completely sealed, the tiny bits of brown sugar hardened at the bottom of the bag.

And I think about it now. Sprinkling that brown sugar on her oatmeal (which she said was often cold by the time it got to her) was the highlight of her day. Those bits of sweetness were like gold might be to someone else.

And it never occured to me to offer to bring her more. I could have shown up one visit with a fresh bag of brown sugar, sugar that was still soft, but more abundant. Sugar she wouldn’t have to ration so tightly.

Her 102nd birthday.

Every morning when I make my oatmeal, when I sprinkle it with brown sugar I think of her.

And I send up a silent apology that I was so blind.

“What are you doing?” she asked me when I took this with my phone

Author: dawnkinster

I'm a long time banker having worked in banks since the age of 17. I took a break when I turned 50 and went back to school. I graduated right when the economy took a turn for the worst and after a year of library work found myself unemployed. I was lucky that my previous bank employer wanted me back. So here I am again, a long time banker. Change is hard.

26 thoughts on “Brown sugar

  1. We often don’t think of those things in the moment. I’m sure she was happy to have you visit and that you remember her.


  2. So many red flags here. The oatmeal arriving cold! Not having enough sugar! Only eating once a day! I cannot like this post, so sorry.


  3. Glamorous to the end. Love all the Aunt Vi stories, even the bittersweet ones.


  4. Those things not thought of until too late can drive us crazy. Be kind to yourself – Aunt Vi would not want you to be unhappy.


  5. How beautiful she was. Perhaps she had her own source of sugar and only liked a little but I have similar thoughts about my grandma. They would both be pleased to be thought of so often and tenderly.


  6. You were taking a photo of how pretty she looked…Aunt Vi looks beautiful.


  7. You weren’t blind. Undoubtedly you were meeting many of her other needs, and just didn’t get to it. Your thoughtfulness is always in full swing!


  8. I’m sure she’s forgiven you long ago, Dawn. I was wondering though why you didn’t take her one of those zippered bags, instead of the line-up kind. The zippers are way easier to operate!


  9. Your twice weekly visits surely meant more to her than any bag of brown sugar could have. You gave her the most precious gift of all—your time.


  10. From your stories, I know that Aunt Vi was an amazing woman. Bags of brown sugar–the things we never think of in the moment, right?
    What happened to her birdie?


  11. There are so many things we can beat ourselves up for. Or wish things worked out differently, that we were more aware. Things we did and didn’t do. I think if you were meant to bring dear Aunt Vi more brown sugar, you would have. In the meantime you might take a little of your morning oatmeal, set it out under a tree and give her a heaping teaspoon of brown sugar. She’ll feel your big heart from wherever her spirit might be right now. 🙂


  12. Aw, such sweet memories of her. Wow, to live to 102, that’s amazing. Whatever you did to help her live that long, I’m sure it had more to do with her longevity than brown sugar. I bet she’s smiling knowing you’ve carried on the tradition of her favorite breakfast.


  13. You have some good memories and photos of her. I wish I had taken my grandmother more paper as she wrote on backs on envelopes:)


  14. She loves you, just know that she loves you. I brought my friend a glass of whisky just two days before she died, and the nurses smiled and turned aside. It’s hard to know what to do, and then sometimes even harder to think back and wish you’d done something else. But what survives is the love … and that’s sure obvious in your story here, Dawn. I eat oatmeal too … and I’ll think of you and your Aunt Vi when I add the brown sugar.


  15. What a long life she lived. Sometimes its the little things that make others so happy I am sure she really enjoyed those visits. I remember when I was a kid around 7 or 8 years old visiting my great grandmother in the nursing home she was in her 80s at the time. We always stopped and bought her the tiny container of vanilla ice cream and the wooden spoon because she loved it.


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