Sunday, September 25, 2005

How Sweet it Is

Okay...here's some background so you understand the magnamity of the emotions in this post. My grandmother is 87 years old. Super feisty, super smart, super lost in advanced dementia. I am her closest relative. I lived with her for several years while going to college, and in general, can trace a lot of the good things about my life to her influence. Music, writing, poetry, my husband (whom I wouldn't have met if I hadn't been living with her while going to college), etc.

About two years ago it became apparent that she was losing her grip on reality and I called my Uncle (who is the executor of her estate) to come from Spokane to get things in place before she was totally gone. That was in November of 2003. By December, she and her new husband of a couple of years had been moved from the home my grandfather built in the 1950s to an assited living community. That was tough on her, because she knew enough to know it wasn't her home, but wasn't able to stay in her home any longer. When it snowed hard that winter--and snow is uncharacteristic in my neighborhood--she was convinced she was on a Winter Holiday on the East Coast somewhere. By February, she was wandering the halls at night and going into other people's apartments and the assisted living center asked us to move her to another facility. She was moved to a place specializing in Alzheimer's and Dementia care, and that has worked out pretty well.

For a long time I was still one of the people she recognized. Me and Lloyd, her second husband. About a year ago that stopped. After I spend some time with her, I think she knows who I am, but it's hard to say. One of my duties (and it's not really a hard thing to do) is to take her to her doctor and dentist appointments. That's been a pretty good experience for the most part. Earlier this month, I took her to the dentist. It was the first time she'd been for several years. It was hard. She didn't know me at all. At first, she was belligerent and angry and refused to go. After a few minutes, we (her aid Marta and I) got her moving and in my van. Let's just say the rest of the day was interesting.

Anyway, a few weeks later it was time to take her to the doctor for a routine appointment. She wouldn't budge. No how, No way, not for anyone. Rather than force her, we decided to just cancel the appointment and go another time. I noticed that someone had left a hymnbook from our church on the piano, so I decided to play and sing to her for awhile so that at least by lunchtime she would be in a better mood. My grandmother loves music. She especially loves Church music, and spent a long, long time serving in some musical capacity. Sadly, she no longer remembers the words to the hymns she loved so well. She often just hums the alto part along with me.

Today, however, she sang every word to one hymn. Kinda in the middle of my impromptu concert, we sang all three verses to a hymn called "Count your Many Blessings." After that, nothing. Just part humming. Of all the hymns to sing, it was the one reminding you how good you have it when you think you have nothing. What a hymn for her to remember! I think that somewhere inside her, her soul is hungering for spiritual things. Yet despite everything, she is still counting her blessings.

When I left, I held her hand and asked her if she knew who I was. For the first time in a long time, I saw recognition in her eyes. She knew who I was and she knew that I loved her and I knew that she loved me. She cried a little, I tried not to, and then I hugged her and I left. It was a sweet choice moment in my life that I will never forget.

And that's the other side.

1 comment:

Anita said...

Wow. How wonderful for you to be able to make contact with her like that. Made me stop to appreciate life a little and reflect on my blessings, even when life seems to be tough.