Thursday, November 10, 2011

My grandma is not my grandma

It seems like, suddenly, my grandma lost her mind. I suppose I saw it coming. She’d forget words, she’d forget the name of my spouse. But she also drank a lot of wine, so lapses in finding words had always been fairly common, though recently there had been an uptick. And then, it seems like from one month to the next, she really lost her mind. Just recently, she was placed in a memory care unit at her assisted living home. And now, when I call, she’s begging me to get her out of there.

It’s a weird feeling, to have your grandmother pleading with you to take her anywhere – anywhere but there. “I want to live,” she says. “Just get me out of here. I can take care of myself. I want to live. This? This is not living. I want to live!”

But she can’t survive on her own. And she lives on the other side of the country. I try to explain she needs to be with people who can take care of her, that she needs that care, but the pleading continues. I wish I could do something, but other than sending her cards and calling and praying for her, there’s nothing I can do. So I told her I’d do everything I could for her.

“Which means nothing,” she says, meaning she won’t be getting out of there, which to me sounds like grandma isn’t too far gone to get that fact correct. Though I believe in the power of prayer, I’m not praying to get her out of that place; I’m praying for her peace and clarity of mind. “I’ll remember what you said,” she says. “That you wouldn’t help me. I’ll remember that, even if I die.”

It’s heartbreaking. I wish I could somehow soothe her. But I can’t. But I do take solace in remembering our last good conversation, before she was placed in memory care, not too long ago. She acknowledged that she wasn’t remembering things like she used to. I tried to tell her that it was normal, that I forgot things all the time, too. And she then told me that I was a good mom, and that she loved me, no matter what. "Remember I love you," she'd said.

So now, with her pleading on the phone and becoming angry at my lack of response to her begging, with her hanging up on me without telling me she loves me back, I’ve got to remember that my grandma is not my grandma. It’s so rotten: such a wonderful woman, once so full of cheer and laughter and light, living the end of her life in memory care.

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