I sit with my grandmother often, a ready hand when she’s in need. I am a safe place when she is lonely, a conversation techie when questions arise, a chef satisfying her taste buds, a hugger in confusion, and an encourager of her independence.
At 99-years old, she’s lived longest in this home, raised a family, after serving in WWII, master gardener, retired office genius, saw her husband off before her, and maintained life on her own, with drop in family care, until I came to stay with her two and a half years ago. She is quite a remarkable woman, but she wouldn’t lead you to think so.
She’s seen things we will never really experience. Her stoic intelligent in control demeanor was a rock that could not be shaken. And yet, at times, between the swings of Alzheimer’s, still holds on.
Over the past six months there have been some significant changes. She goes places often, not with her feet, but in her mind. She dreams crazy dreams and finds herself in them when she wakes, seeking me out to see if what she dreamed was true or not. She wakes in a stupor, a fog. I can usually gauge whether I’m speaking with grandma or with the disease, but must admit it’s getting challenging each day.
It is another night, 7pm in the evening, the sunset an hour and half ago. The house is lit up in its Lawerence Welk wall colors and LED lights, the curtains have been drawn, and the house is on lock down by her paranoid request. Beyond my grandmothers white illuminating hair, and behind the wrinkles, age spots, and sagging face, she gazes at me for a moment before asking, “Where am I?”
Three words of confusion. Three words that sadden my heart, knowing her memory loss is winning this war she never thought she’d have to fight. After reassuring her she’s in her own home, she says she feels like she’s in a foreign land. More times that late, she then asks me, “What’s wrong with me?” through sobs of confused streaming tears. I used to tell her that she’s aging. But I cannot keep her from the obvious. She just wants an honest answer. So, I tell her she has memory loss, because no matter what I say, it won’t be retained, but negatively mulled over in her brain for about an hour, before she slips into a silent peace and wakes later with no recollection of the moment.