My grandmother is not doing well, and as I sit here typing I can hear her answering questions for the insurance company. Right now, the nice lady (loudly and slowly) asks my grandmother if she knows what day it is. Silence. She asks louder. Still, I can’t hear her response. The lady moves on. What town are we in? The quiet hits my core. I imagine my grandmother in the next room, smiling and nodding, desperately trying to understand. This is torture. The lady changes directions, can she show her how to take off her shoes? What about the bathroom, can my grandmother show her where it is? I stop listening.
It’s distracting, sure, but more painful. This is the same grandmother who taught hundreds of children in school how to read and how to tie their shoes, and I can’t begin to remember all she taught me. Now she has a few sentences left but it’s mostly jumbled words. She can turn the lights on, but not off; open the windows and doors, but never close them. I wish I could take comfort in the idea that she is not aware of what is happening, but I know she is. She barely speaks above a whisper right now because she’s aware of her inability to communicate. She apologizes and my heart breaks. After watching her siblings lose their minds, I know she is aware of what’s happening to her. She’s been expecting it—as much as one can.
She still smiles; I guess that’s something, no?
If you were to have asked me a few years ago about my beliefs on life, I would’ve told you that I believe in writing one’s own story and that I wanted to write my life as one big epic adventure.
But with Alzheimer’s, as with most illnesses I would imagine, the story writes you. It grabs you and traps you; it builds a prison and then a bridge out, and then just as quickly knocks it down. And you are left with this vague horror of knowing, but never really knowing, what the next moment will bring.
My grandfather is determined to take care of her for as long as possible. And when I cry, I cry for him too.
It’s been pretty darn cold down here in Kentucky! I took the pictures above while on a walk. We only made it down the block before we had to turn around because we were freezing!! On my way to Kentucky, I stopped by Michigan to visit Matt and his family (okay, MI wasn’t really on my way).
Despite the cold, we walked around as much as we could; watched movies and documentaries we’ve been meaning to see like The Cove, Fight Club, National Geographic Photographers, and The Black Swan; checked out the Heidelberg Project, started by a man who wanted to use “art to provoke thought, promote discussion, inspire action and heal communities”; visited the Detroit Institute of Arts, and spent too little time at King’s Used & Rare Books store. The weather looked iffy the day I wanted to leave for Kentucky, so Matt came with me for the drive. But not without a lot of tears first.
We don’t fight often, but this was one of our bigger disagreements. He had a lot he wanted to work on, but I made the case (pretty clearly, I hope) that if he was serious about us, he needed to come with me to meet my grandparents because there might not be another time. And, if we get married and have children together, I want him to be able to describe what he knew of her. Yes, I really said that.
So he came. We drove south on 75 (a long, straight, boring highway) and into some pretty heavy rain. But we made it. Unfortunately, Matt was very allergic to something in the house and was really sniffly the whole time. My grandparents made sure that we were properly chaperoned the whole time (read: we were never alone) and I wanted to be respectful so I didn’t push it. We tried to go for a walk one day but it was about 10 degrees and windy. After an icestorm came and went, Matt took a bus back to Michigan on Tuesday. I don’t know when I’ll see him again.