As y'all know, I had been away visiting family for a week last month. Don't get me wrong, I love my family- but that trip was also very emotional.
Grandma has dementia. Relatives had told me how bad it is, although I kept hoping that it is not that bad as they said- I was thinking back to seniors that I helped taken care of at a senior center many years ago.
Seeing my grandma, it was both bad and good.
Relatives took me to see her at a memory care center. Seeing me, Grandma brightened up as if I was the sun. She opened her arms, I entered them, feeling her love and warmth. It was so obvious she was happy to see me after a year and half. To relatives' surprise, Grandma tried to sign- and I recognized some of them- giving me hope that she did indeed recall how we communicate (I was dreading that she'd try to talk with me, forgetting our mode of communication). We talked a bit, although we wrote forth and back (relative voiced for me.) I observed that she had lost a lot of weight, she is much smaller. I kept my tears inward, knowing that if I wept front of her, she'll cry too. She's certainly empathic. I left promising that I'll visit her again (daily).
My aunt cautioned me that Grandma might not remember that I had already visited her, the next time I see her. That reminded me of one senior consumer I worked with- basically each day is the first day for her- just like in the movie the 50 first dates. I'd come in, not knowing what to expect from her. Most of times, working with her was a good experience- most of times.
The next time I saw Grandma- she was equally so happy to see me- and I realized- she didn't remember seeing me yesterday.
My heart broke. I ached for her. I felt tears filling up in my eyes, and I fought hard not to let them spill out.
Watching her and Aunt K chattering, I realized something. no matter what, she still remembers loving me, even if it is anew daily.
And that day when we had the interpreter (as I spoke of in a previous post, not being happy due to the not-qualified interpreter), again Grandma was so happy to see me, not recalling that we had been together the day before. The interpreter did try to take up the conversation, telling of her own church interpreting or of her children in which I interrupted telling her that it's NOT about her.. It's about me and Grandma, It's our time together. I found myself balancing my patience and tolerance of the interpreter who kept misunderstanding me, so I'd have to repeat myself two or three times, knowing that I'm losing time (and grandma's energy).
At that time, I realized I had a gift that Grandma had given to me for years, and this gift is now time to share with her back.
"Do you remember the house fire?" Grandma asked.
The relatives were puzzled- they were uncertain what she was talking about.
I nodded, "yes, which one- one in Henderson or your family home?" She beamed, "my family home." That was when she was a child. I affirmed remembering what she told me. She was so happy.
She then talked about cooking certain foods when she was young, or of the pond near her home, and I validated, recalling them with her.
You see, Grandma had told me her stories when we cooked in the kitchen, me being six years old. She shared funny childhood stories as we shopped for clothes to fit my adolescent body. She disclosed to me of tough times as she grew up while I was visiting her from college.
No one had closely paid attention to her history throughout many years. I may be deaf, but I listened and memorized her stories. I wrote them down in my journals as I grew up. And now I still remember them, now important to her now that she cannot remember her late years, but of only her childhood to when cousins and I were children.
So those are her stories, her history, her life. She is re-living her life in the stories, and that's what I can do, and I did. I remember her stories.
On the last day, I hugged her, not knowing if I will see her again. So she knows something, and we looked at each other. She did not want to let go. I glanced back at the door, and she was already disappearing into herself on the sofa.
She is living in her memories, and I will write this down, another note in my journal, to memorize.
Another part of Grandma for me to cherish in memory, even with the heartbreak.