Thursday, June 18, 2015

I Know You're In There…..

I've heard of Alzheimer's, dementia, memory loss…. but like many things, until these words become your reality, they are just words. I've had friends experience this with their grandparents, but I couldn't relate at the time.

When these words happen to someone close to you, and you read things like, "not reversible," incurable," and "degenerative"…. it becomes a different story, because someone close to you is becoming a different person. 

This is a letter I would want to give to my Grandma….

Dear Grandma, 
At times, I know there is clarity, and that's when the tears start. Yours on the outside, mine on the inside. Your words stop as quickly as they start because they don't make sense. I try to guess what you are trying to say, but your frustration stops me. I try to make the conversation light when I see you, because I feel guilty. I can drive, walk, punch in the code to the elevators in your building….. to leave. So many things you can't do. Behind every laugh and comment I make to you is a wanting… a wanting for the old Grandma to come back, just for a minute. 

You had nail polish on yesterday. Bright, coral, summery polish. In your 93 years of life, I've never seen a picture, or in person, painted nails. It made me feel sad to see your nails painted because, I'm sure someone asked you, and you nodded, but you didn't know what they were going to do. Maybe you look at your nails now and are sad because you don't know how to take the polish off. In the memory care unit, there aren't cotton balls you can use. They don't even have tissues out in fear of patients eating them, or real silverware for meals. Maybe I should look at your nails and be happy someone took the time to paint them, and make you feel good. To me they are a reminder of one more decision made for you, and at one time, you were so strong willed you made all of your own decisions. 

When I walked into your room yesterday and you weren't there, but a man who had stripped down to only his underwear was lying there, I wish I could have told you how funny that was, and you could have made some hilarious comment about the situation. But the truth is, he thought it was his room, so it really wasn't funny.

Despite all of that…..

I know you're in there Grandma. When I'm talking to you, it's as though you are another person, but I know you hear me. I know a piece of you has to remember. Behind those sad, brown eyes, that stare ahead, I know you see me. I see the corners of your mouth turn upward every time I say, "I'm Natalie, don't forget Grandma," while I squeeze your hand. 

I see you use your hand in a "shooing" away motion to other residents when you've had enough of them talking to me, or you say "goodbye" when someone is irritating you. I know you're in there. 

I see you calling after the man with the white hair and flannel pants, "Sam, Sam, get over here," because that's what you used to say to Grandpa.

I know you're in there Grandma, and that's what keeps me coming back. 

I love you,

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