Commentary, Megael “Junior” Johnson
Most people at some point in their lives are confronted with making a decision that will cause them hardship, but that will also help a loved one in the long run. I have been taking care of my grandmother at our home in Richmond since I was about 9 or 10 years old, and I have had to make many such decisions since that time.
All my life, my parents haven’t been there for me. After a few personal incidents happened, I ended up staying with my grandmother. That’s what led to me taking on the responsibility of caring for her. Throughout those childhood years, my grandmother developed many different physical and mental disabilities and just recently she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which has caused a lot of wear and tear on her body. On occasion, my uncle and my aunt come by to visit my grandma and take her places, like to the doctor and sometimes to the store. Other than that, I have no assistance.
Having to watch over my grandma has wounded my ability to take part in some of the activities I could have otherwise attended. For example, I started to play soccer when I was about 7 years old and I would always look toward the bleachers on the sideline, but she wouldn’t be there because she wasn’t physically able to make it. This happening many times made me lose interest in soccer, because no one was there to support me when I played. So I started to slack off with sports and began staying home and taking care of my grandma.
However, missing out on these activities has turned out to be the greatest decision that I have made. It has made me a better person by teaching me to see the bigger picture of many things that have come my way as I’ve grown up. As a 16-year-old and a senior at Richmond High School, there will be many activities that I’m willing to skip in order to look after my grandmother.
Many people ask me, “What is daily life like for you, taking care of your grandmother?”
I can start by saying I honestly enjoy it, even though at times I get really frustrated and want to give up. I remember one time, I really wanted to go to the movies with my friends but my grandma was really sick. She had just come home from a chemotherapy or radiation treatment (I don’t recall which) and she was feeling very fatigued so I had to stay home and watch her while my friends went to watch a movie and eat out. That day I wanted to just give up and go out with my friends, but instead I decided to stay home and watch over her.
Although it may seem like a lot of work for an active teenager, I can say from personal experience it is not as bad as it seems. I clean the house on a daily basis; doing stuff like washing dishes, vacuuming, mopping and dusting — the same stuff that any normal teenager my age would be doing for chores.
However, I do also have to make sure that my grandmother eats and takes her medicine in the morning and afternoon (depending on when she wakes up). It’s nothing compared to taking care of a baby, because my grandmother is still on her feet and able to do things for herself in certain situations.
Every two weeks or so, I go grocery shopping for the house, without my grandmother. She is not capable of walking around the store for a long time, so that leaves me with the aid of my uncle to go and buy stuff for the house. Going to the store has given me experience in purchasing groceries and seeing the value of a dollar.
Many teenagers do not know the real value of the dollar and are constantly spending money on things that they do not need. If I hadn’t experienced going to the store and buying groceries then I would have been one of those teenagers. Instead, I’ve learned how to save a lot more money. Rather than going out to eat and wasting money, I’d rather stay home and make something to eat.
My grandma changed my diapers, has fed me and taken care of me since I was two. Now it is time to repay the favor and help her as she recovers from her recent diagnosis of breast cancer, and make sure that she recovers fully and comes out of her treatments completely healthy and back to normal.
My grandmother is teaching me things and she doesn’t even know it — and I thank her dearly, from the bottom of my heart.
is a community news and media outlet, committed to amplifying the voices of the city's under-served residents. Our reporting is led by young people, with the intent of serving the entire community. Through our work, we seek to create dialogue, and find solutions to, the health issues that plague the Richmond, California community.
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