When Lucy Knisley went on a Caribbean cruise as a caretaker for her elderly grandparents, she found a valuable opportunity to reconnect with them and to learn about their past. The 27-year-old cartoonist and published author talked to My Modern Met about her experiences chronicled in her book Displacement, which combines handwritten text narration and simple drawings to chronicle her Caribbean adventures.
The artist's grandmother and grandfather, a World War II veteran, lived independent lives in Ohio until their mid '90s, when family members moved them to a nursing home. The family wanted to give them a cruise as a present, and Knisley, who lived in another city, volunteered to accompany them without realizing the extent of their health conditions.
Knisley writes about trying to find activities that could accommodate her grandparents' unexpected physical limitations while fostering fresh connections. She found that swim time was a happy medium that brought out a more relaxed and conversational side of her grandmother. A pub-themed dinner coaxed her grandfather to talk and sing about wartime memories.
Because she was intentional about investing quality time with her grandparents, it eventually paid off in memorable ways. “Throughout the trip, I attempted to make connections with my grandparents, but in many cases, due to their memory issues, those connections fell short,” she says. “There were a few moments when I felt that connection deeply – swimming with my grandmother, or hearing my grandfather singing old drinking songs from the war – when we could click, and it meant a lot to me.”
My Modern Met interview with Lucy Knisley