Grandma

I read the headline of an article on how documenting your day helps maintain your memory. I didn’t read it nor will I link to it for a couple of reasons.

1.) It’s so obviously true. Reading something that you wrote down based on personal experience returns you to that moment, even if it’s like looking through a hazy mirror.
2.) Because my memory is so foggy, I need to practice using it and not rely on the internet to fill in the blanks.
3.) I want to write more on what’s in my head right now; not what use to be or even what could be.

That means things won’t be that interesting here because they will be garbled, hashed, and more sloppily thrown into the white space than ever before. Worse, I’m going to try literally working through lost words in my vocabulary as I type instead of depending on an electronic thesauruses. I’m tired of the words always on the tip of my tongue but never passing my lips. I’m sure that has a medical term. In fact, I know I’ve looked it up before, but I’m not going to now. I will use spellcheck, so for that at least you can be grateful.

According to my TimeHop app, it was three years ago I scheduled a neurological appointment for my mom to discuss her own edge-teetering dementia. The doctor said Alzheimer’s but my sisters refuse to make that leap. There’s a difference and I suppose as an outsider you can say it’s obvious what those differences are, but I can feel it. It makes no difference when you see her hazel eyes clouded with the inability to recognize me, even if it’s for a moment or several seconds. I see confusion and hurt.

At Thanksgiving, she and my six-year-old daughter, Aitch, disappeared into her room. I was busy with prepping the meal, but later Aitch said that grandma Jean sat on the floor and watched her play, giggling at her antics. There was no conversation. I think that’s why grandma slipped away. Aitch has no expectations from her grandma to answer questions about what craft she’s been keeping herself busy with, or if she’s done Christmas shopping, or has she started baking cookies.

After we ate, I asked my mom who was seated at the table, if she wanted apple or pumpkin pie. She chose apple. I went to the kitchen and plated up a slice and added a dollop of ice cream. I then asked her if she wanted a fork or a spoon. She looked up and through me, her face blank, and shrugged. In that instant, I knew…I knew that she didn’t know why I’d ask her if she wanted a fork or a spoon. I calmly rephrased the question, “With your apple pie and ice cream, would you rather use a fork or a spoon to eat it?” Inside I crumbled.

The mother of a friend of mine died a couple weeks ago after losing a painful battle with cancer. Following the visitation as I was walking away from the church with my husband, Sparring Partner, I must have made said something trite like “I can’t imagine what she’s going through,” and in an uncharacteristically harsh response, Sparring Partner said, “No, you can’t. Some day you will.” His dad’s death a year and a half ago still leaves him raw.

The thing is I have already lost my mom. Physically she can sit beside me, warm in the way that a body pumping blood is, but she’s gone. I can’t talk to her like she’s my mom anymore. She doesn’t care that Aitch is a first grader and wants to be a clothing designer. A few years ago, she’d laugh and tell stories the hundreds magazine clippings of fashions I have glued to into tablets, or of the dozens of dress sketches I had that to were in a cardboard box in the attic. She doesn’t care that my son, Doodicus, is a year away from a school driving permit or that he went to his school dance. My son will never hear the story from grandma Jean about my first traffic ticket even though she was in the passenger seat when it happened. There’s no reflection or magnification of my pride, fear, humor in her eyes that anyone else might get when they talk about their family.

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6 thoughts on “Grandma”

  1. I’m so sorry about your mother. My mother and mother in law both have Alzheimer’s and it’s the most cruel disease. My mother hasn’t recognized me in years.

  2. I’m so sad for your loss of your mum. It’s a cruel joke that she is physically still here, but truly gone. And so hard, no matter how complex the relationship, that your mum won’t be there for those memories to share with your kids.

  3. I love that you’re going to write more.

    A relative of Jeff’s just passed away suddenly this week, and I find myself grappling with the question if it’s easier to deal with a long illness versus a sudden loss. Hearing your story about your mom (and my best friend’s husband, whose mom had Alzheimer’s as well)… I don’t know that it’s any easier. It’s so hard to watch someone fade away.

    xoxo

  4. Excellent idea – I hope it will prove helpful for you. I hate the feeling of knowing that I know something but I just can’t think of it.

    I’m sorry to hear about your mom and that SP can’t quite see that a mental loss is very similar to a physical loss – either way, you no longer have the relationship that you counted on for your whole life. He’ll get it eventually, but be patient with him in the meantime.

  5. I am so sorry you are going through this, especially your mother.

    I watched my Grandfather leave us the same way. By the end, I would not go to visit him at the nursing home he finally had to go to (he would wake up in the night and attack his wife saying she had stolen his real one). I could not visit him…because to me he was already dead.

    I wish her many moments of clarity and hope that your family is able to spend those moments with her.

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