I try to visit my grandma (my dad’s mother) as much as possible, but part of me thinks “what good is it?”
She’s 89, but can’t remember how old she is (she says she’s 90, but I remind her she’ll be 90 in September). She can’t remember where she puts things. She offends people without knowing it. She gets mad at my dad thinking he’s her deceased ex-husband. She can be as mean as a dog crapping tacks to everyone who cares for her.
But she likes me for some reason. Even though, according to her, my hair is too short and I should’ve taken Spanish instead of French during high school.
Sometimes she calls me Linda. Sometimes she calls my baby, decked out in pink and a bow, a boy. She asks me what “his” name is. She thinks it’s the weirdest name ever. I explain what it means to us, but she still doesn’t get it. She asks where I live at least 10 times every time we visit.
But I bring her coffee and we talk about the past because it’s the only thing she remembers. I’ve heard the stories many times, with the same facial expressions nonetheless, but I listen like it’s the first time.
She’s just grandma. And she’s slowly losing her mind to dementia.
At one point in my life, I remember thinking I’d love to grow old and turn 100. But now, I want nothing of it. That is, if my mind is gone.
I try to remember my grandma at her best when her mind was here. Each morning, she did the Detroit Free Press crossword puzzle while listening to Paul W. Smith on her Bose radio. Her nightly ritual was watching Jeopardy. Sometimes I’d watch with her. I always got excited if I knew an answer.
Her dishes had strawberries on them. She always had Coke in her fridge. And gummy candies in a dish on her table. Dark paintings adorned her walls; the painted faces scared me as a kid.
Once upon a time, she swam with me in her apartment complex pool. She told me about Ireland and how she lived there as a young girl. She gave me cards filled with generous amounts of money at Christmas and my birthday.
But no card comes at Christmas or my birthday anymore. She doesn’t even know what month it is, let alone the day. She doesn’t know her own birthday, how is she going to remember mine?
It pains me so much to see her mind slipping away. It pains me even more that she knows it and is so frustrated by it. I hate that she’s in an assisted living place where we all know she doesn’t get the best care and it robs her of thousands of dollars each month. But nobody can handle her 24/7.
I cry because I don’t want to lose her. I cry because she’s still here. I know this isn’t how she wants to live. She jokes about hoping to die soon all the time.
She might live to be 100 yet, and I will be there no matter what, to bring her coffee and talk about the past and have faith that maybe, just maybe, someday there will be a cure for this mind-robbing disease.
But in the meantime, I’m just going to lend a listening ear and try my darnest to remember the grandma I knew 20 years ago.