Monday, December 14, 2009

Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go

(Alternate title to this post: Alzheimer's sucks~a visit to see my grandmother)

Yesterday we packed up the kids and took them to the nursing home to visit my grandmother. This may seem unremarkable to some, except that it's been TWO YEARS since I've seen my grandmother. The last time I saw her was here at my home on Thanksgiving, two years ago. On that day, her mind wasn't terribly sharp, and she repeated the same questions over and over, but she walked into my house of her own accord and had a lovely time watching the kids play and enjoying family. After that Thanksgiving, she fell and broke her hip and for awhile, we thought she'd never recover. But recover she did, and while her mind continued to fail her, her body healed.

My grandmother is the only grandmother I've ever known. We rarely saw eye to eye, but I know that she loved me and I loved her. She lacked what we would call a "filter"; she'd say things like "if you only lost a little weight, you'd be such a pretty girl" and while she meant well, those kind of words hurt. Eventually though, I learned to just take what she said with a grain of salt.

Several years ago Alzheimer's came calling. Alzheimer's is an awful disease. Alzheimer's takes the person you know and love and replaces them with someone who doesn't have any idea who you are. For a long time, she'd have moments of real clarity and be able to carry on a conversation. Now, she doesn't always know my dad (her son), rarely knows my mother and speaks in a jumbled sort of way. But let's give her credit~she will be 91 next month!

So yesterday I thought we should go visit. I arranged with my parents to have them meet us there. I had very low expectations of how the visit would go. We had prepared the kids that she's in a wheelchair now and that she might not say too much to us. I think I was preparing myself as well; I wasn't expecting her to remember me at all. But G.G.(short for grammy-great) surprised us all. She called my mother by her full name, something my mom says she never does. And when my father mentioned my name to her, she repeated it back to him with a flicker of recognition. You can better believe that I cried, a lot. She was more animated than usual, according to my parents, because of the kids being there. It was a visit that was so much more than I had hoped for and I am so glad that we went.

As we were getting back into our cars yesterday, my mom said something to me that was so true that I wished it had been said to me sooner. She told me that while she may not be the grammy (or mother) that we once knew, she is the grammy that we have. She may not know me the next time we go, but we certainly aren't going to wait so long to go visit again. I was proud of how well the kids did while we were there (of course having a 5 foot singing Santa in the lobby helped as well!), considering that only Megan remembers her G.G. at all.

Do I wish I'd gone to visit her sooner? Of course I do. It's not like I was sitting around doing nothing the last two years; taking care of four kids takes the majority of my time. That's not an excuse, just reality. I will also fully admit that a part of me, a big part, misses the old grammy and that I find it hard to see her the way she is now. That part of me wants to remember how she was the last time she was here because it reminds me of how she used to be. I wanted the kids, especially Megan, to remember her from that last visit. But yesterday's visit was good for us all. I think I did a little healing and can only hope that she knows me again the next time we go.


brooke b said...

Your mom is very wise. I loved her words and will likely hear them resonate in my ears. What a great opportunity to see your grandmother. Love that you had that for yourself and your kids. Merry Christmas, my friend!

PS love your new blog picture/header. love, love, love it.

heather... said...

I love your new blog header, too! SO cute.

I think about visiting my great grandmother in her nursing home, after a terrible stroke took most of her mind. It was hard to see her like that, and for a long time it was hard for me to remember past that visit to our good times. But eventually I did, especially when I got older and I realized that we went to visit her less for HER, and more for my mom and grandma.

lots of love.

Suz said...

It sounds like a lot of healing happened. Congrats on blessing yourself and your children this Christmas season.

creative kerfuffle said...

one of my great grandma's had alzheimer's and when i went to visit her in the nursing home she always thought i was either my aunt or my aunt's son. my fave gma also had it and was just starting to lose her memory when she died. the last time we saw her the girl was 2, sitting w/ her in her hospital bed singing to her and we'd just told her we were expecting the boy.