Growing up, my grandma and grandpa played a large role in my life. I spent summers at their home, they picked me up from school until I could drive, and attended every sporting event or school activity that came up. When I had kids of my own, they were there once again, to help out however possible. Up until the end of last summer, they were still watching my kiddos once or twice a week. But it was becoming obvious that it was getting to be too much.
When we moved north, I knew that the hardest part would be less time spent with our families. It’s easy to take for granted the time spent with grandparents when they’ve always lived within five minutes of you. Once we relocated, I found that larger chunks of time would pass between visits, but each time we were home, it was as if we had never left.
Last fall, upon returning home from a trip to Texas, I received a call from my brother. Something was wrong with my Grandma and I needed to get home. In the middle of cutting my husband’s hair, we dropped everything, he threw on a hat and everyone piled into the car. I cried the entire 75-minute drive there because it all came as such a shock. I had just been with her two weeks before and everyone seemed happy and healthy.
After a long stay in the hospital, they came to the conclusion that she had developed Alzheimer’s. Everything else seemed fine. She had stopped taking a certain medication, everything went haywire and thus triggered the ambulance being called because she showed signs of a stroke. Following her hospital stay, she spent about a month in a rehabilitation facility. She had forgotten how to walk and they would not release her until she relearned this skill.
The painful part of this was watching a woman who spent so much of her life walking, being held hostage inside of her own body. She walked outside every day when weather permitted and joined the mall walkers when conditions were less favorable. My husband (then fiancé) and I came to visit one day. She was practically in tears with the nurse trying to do a simple lap around the building. I walked with them and did my best to encourage a woman who had always been the headstrong, rock of our family. At that point, my wedding was just two weeks away. The uncertainty of her presence was eating away at me.
Low and behold, she went home just in time. I remember arriving at the church and seeing her sitting in the front from the balcony. Instant tears of relief formed in my eyes to know she was there on one of the most important days of my life. However, since November of last year, things have taken a much different and painful direction. As a mother, this was another one of those instances I wasn’t prepared for. Both of my grandparents seemed to never age, until last fall. The conversations with my own children are tough. They cannot fully understand why she doesn’t know our names and asks the same question over and over again.
My grandma will always be one of the most important and influential people in my life. Her memory might be rapidly fading, but I will always treasure our time together. My third child is on the way and due in February. When we discussed this last weekend, she replied with, “My birthday is in March!” Even though we know there is no rebounding from this awful disease, it’s those little moments of recollection that give us all a tiny ounce of hope.
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