I went looking on my Flickr account for something pretty to post from years past taken on this date. I found this photo from 2008, four years ago, when I was at my parent’s house for two weeks for my ten year high school reunion, and one of my best friend’s weddings. The tree in the photo is a pecan in my parent’s backyard, but the atmosphere of the photo then versus this weekend was completely different. Sunny in the photo, chilly in the 50s and overcast this weekend.
It’s a little strange that the photo happens to be from a weekend home because I think it was somewhere around this time that my grandmother transitioned from being fairly independent and living on her own with minimal care, to falling and breaking her leg in her backyard, and then spending hours on the ground outside before someone noticed she had fallen. What has transpired since has been the even more rapid aging of my grandmother. She never regained the mobility she had before, but spent some time in a senior’s apartment complex until two weeks ago. That was when a flooding of the building she was in forced what had been talks about moving to assisted living to become reality.
This weekend I went home to help go through some of the items my mom was able to salvage from her apartment, to figure out what my grandmother would use in the future, throw away items no one wanted to keep, and to take any sentimental items I wanted. All of this had been done once before when she sold her house so it was strange doing it yet again. Of course just about every item we looked over held some sort of memory and sometimes it was hard to say no to something. Like the well-worn and burned-on-grease square Pyrex that she used to make cheese potatoes in (my favorite). I passed on that, but don’t get me wrong, I thought hard about that dish and all the meals it held over the years.
I last saw my grandmother a month ago when I drove up for my dad’s birthday. Today my mom and I went to visit her at the nursing home she is at until Medicaid kicks in and she can move to assisted living. When we walked in the door and around to her side of the room, her face darkened as she saw us. I couldn’t tell if she was angry we were there or what, but it wasn’t too long before I realized what it truly was—nonrecognition. A few seconds elapsed and she started talking to my mom like it wasn’t any big deal, launching into her usual tirades and talking about this-or-that with where she is living now, and gossiping about her roommate who sleeps in her wheelchair in what definitely appears to be a very uncomfortable position.
A white plastic patio chair is where I settled into and sat there for about twenty or thirty minutes before my grandmother looks at my mom and says something to the effect of “I know I should know, but who is this person?”….(mom says she said ‘him’, but I didn’t catch that), meaning me. I hadn’t thought about her not acknowledging me much because sometimes when she’s upset she likes to ignore people, but I hadn’t actually thought she didn’t recognize me. Suddenly her face at the beginning was understandable. Mom told her it was me, I gave her a weird look, and then she said something about my hair being different, which I didn’t understand because I’d had my hair cut the last time I saw her, and then she said something about it being such a long time. Now, I have gone months and months without seeing her before but, I saw her a month ago. I reminded her of that but it didn’t seem to register. I mean, I’m pretty much a mini-me version of my mom so for her not to recognize me is strange, and I am practically the only grandchild who visits her on any kind of regular basis.
I’m not sure what to make of this. Part of me is heart-broken, part of me is being all scientific about it and understanding that memory loss and dementia is part of the aging process for many people, and part of me just wants to ignore it. Having lost one grandparent already this year I’m not up for losing another. And then Chris’ grandmother broke her hip early last week and has other health conditions as well, so it is just not a good year for grandparents.
I’ve always had this weird goal to live to a 100, but I definitely don’t want to live that long if I can’t remember anyone and am not able to be sane and somewhat mobile. Seeing my grandparents in the last few years has really brought attention to aging and the fact that it just plain sucks.
And there you have it.
On a lighter note, my brother is giving away seeds at Sprout Dispatch. Go check it out and comment to win!