I lay here in my dark bedroom listening to the sound of water, when metal shower curtain hooks scrap across a metal shower bar pulling me straight out of my dream state. Immediately, all I could say out loud in a whiny voice was, “Nooohoho!”
It’s 3am…dementia is awake. It has no concept of time, nor does it connect with it any longer. The person it consumes is very strong willed and independent. Even days before she turns 100 years old, she believes herself to be between 60-85 years old, still an able body to do all that she could on her own.
The last thing I want to be is awake right now. But, if I don’t get up, I won’t be prepared for what’s to come. With the covers now pulled back on my bed, a rush of cold air engulfs me. I am awake, yet I am sleeping.
I step from my dark room into the lighted hallway, assess the situation moving between the lit rooms, places she’s already been in this early hour. After finding her hearing aids on the large wooden dresser, just inside her room, at the end of the small hallway, I am aware that whatever sound I make she will hear silence. So as to make sure she has all she needs when returning to her room, I layout fresh clothes on her bed, tossing the old disposable brief she left behind in the trash and added a new one to today’s wardrobe. It looks as though she pulled the clothes out on her own, exactly how I want her to find them.
Stepping beyond the creaky parque wooden bedroom floor into the hallway, once again, I crank the heat up a few notches, so her frail poor circulated body stays warm, as the water toggles between hot and cold in the temperamental shower. I debate with myself quickly deciding to return to my dark cold room. Just maybe I will get some sleep while waiting.
Its been an hour since I became half awake. I cannot sleep, but lay in the dark. The water shut off and clanking of the shower head against grab bars has me on the edge of my bed. I’m waiting for my name to echo in the little bathroom. The sense of urgency lingers in the cold air, but only exhaustive grunts murmur beyond the walk that separates me from her.
Though, I’ve never had children, my internal hovering parental instincts kick in. (I believe that three years of care taking is grooming me to be a parent, some day.) I’m once again outside the bathroom door, feet from her, waiting for the right moment to intervene. I don’t want to overstep her independence; even at this age, people need to feel like they still have it.
Pacing back and forth in the hall, like someone waiting for a baby to be delivered, I still wait. A part of me just wants her to emerge and another part of me can’t wait to go back to bed. But selfishness aside, I’m still standing in the hallway, as she breathes heavy with every step, exercising her strength to do this alone.
Finally, I can no longer handle listening to her exhaustion, tap on the door, then yell.
“What?” Her deafness asks.
I reposition myself so she can read my lips, “Good morning.”
“Good morning” she replies. “I’m almost done.”
I try to continue our new conversation, but she can’t hear me and says, “I don’t know what you are saying.”
I’ve simply forgotten she doesn’t have her hearing aids in just yet. “Can I open the door?”
My dementia feasting grandmother emerges from the bathroom one sloth step at a time. She rolls her walker into her bedroom while telling me she needs to find her clothes. She spots them on her bed, where “she laid them out.”
I help her dress before tidying up, preparing her room for the day. As we both walk to the living room, where I settle her on the couch with a pillow and blanket.
“Can we turn the tv on low?”she asks permission.
“What time is it?”
“4:30 in the morning.”
“Why am I up?”
I can hear the confusion in her voice, “Because your body was ready to get up this early.”
“I’ll try better to not get up so early.” She replies like a girl trying to find approval.
“It’s okay grandma.” My soften heart smiles, and tells her goodnight, leaving her to watch tv, eat her snacks, and take an unscheduled nap, while I head back to bed for some shut eye.