I read an article today that brought tears to my eyes. It was about a woman and what she would say to her kids if she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Apparently her mother had it. She was telling them what she would want and how she would want to be treated. And as I’m struggling with my own grandmother and her Alzheimer’s, it got me thinking. Thinking, about so many things. About how it seems difficult for others in my family to deal with, to accept it, to visit her.
I’ve not once attended an Alzheimer’s support group, and I’m not an expert. But I can tell you the things I know. My grandma is the same person, but not the same person at the same time, if that makes sense. For now, she still knows who I am most days. We may have the same conversation each time I go, sometimes two or ten times in the same visit. But each time I pretend it’s the first time I’ve heard it. She has good days and bad days. Some days I’m not sure she knows my name, but she knows I’m hers. She knows there’s a connection deep inside. I treat her the way I would want to be treated. I always give her a hug and a kiss when I leave and I tell her that I love her. Because someday, she won’t be here for me to tell her that. I always tell her to be good too. One day she said, “If you can’t be good, be careful!” That orneriness still lives in her. One day my kids and I showed up for a visit and she wasn’t in her room. My daughter asked if she had written her name on the wall. I said, “She sure did!”
One visit, she was convinced someone was coming to take our picture, even imagining that they were over in the corner setting up. So, I took our picture with my cellphone.
See, it’s these things that I can look back on when she no longer knows who I am. Those in my family who don’t go see her much or get caught up in the sadness that she’s not the same person, are missing out. They are missing out on the precious time that we do still have with her. Sure, it might not be the same as it once was. But she has done so much for me out of love, that I feel obliged and privileged to be there for her. I have always been very special to her. She had 3 boys and no girls, and I was the only grandchild for 7 years. She still tells me to this day how when she got me she finally got her girl.
And when I say privileged, I mean it. Our visits may not always be rainbows and flowers. Last time I visited she kept trying to convince me to get her out of the nursing home. But I’m privileged that she is still here. She’s still my grandma. And yes, my own reality is staring me in the face when I visit her. Two of her siblings also had this dreaded disease, and I know that more than likely this will be my reality someday.
But for now, I will enjoy this new grandma that she is. While it might not always be enjoyable, I will try to find the humor in our visits. I know she would hate this. I hate it too. But I love her more than I hate the situation, which is what keeps me going. And we she’s gone, I can look back on the memories and the funny things she said. And did… like writing her name on the wall.