February 11 12

As I watched my Twitter stream explode this evening with talk of Whitney Houston’s passing, as I watched as people reminisced about seeing her in concert, about what their favorite songs were, about how tragic this news is, I was doing some reflecting of my own, but it wasn’t about my favorite Whitney Houston song (PS. It’s Greatest Love of All) and while it was about the news of death of a strong woman today, this one hit a little bit closer to home.

Because she was my grandmother.

I saw her last a few days after Christmas.

Although, if I’m being honest, it really wasn’t my grandmother.

Sure, she looked an awful lot like her, but it was not her. She was a woman whose body and mind were riddled with a shitty, shitty disease called Alzheimer’s. She was a woman who lived in a lovely home in Georgia, where they sat her in the sun and sang to her and read to her and cooked for her and loved on her.

But she didn’t know who she was. She didn’t know where she was. She didn’t recognize me or my sister-in-law or my brother or my father or my stepmom. She didn’t recognize Emily or Joshua or Isabella or any of my nieces. She didn’t remember how to use the bathroom. She didn’t remember how to use utensils. She didn’t remember her words well enough to string coherent sentences together. She didn’t remember the difference between laughing and crying.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the end stages of this disease make an elderly person behave so similarly to an infant. All my grandmother needed to be happy were smiling faces and some colorful stuffed animals and fuzzy slippers. She responded with grins and bright eyes to the laughter and singing of children and sunshine.

Full circle, or something.

They told us that she occasionally used the names of my Grandpa. Of my dad. Of my sister. Of me. There were shades of her that escaped her lips—but they were not memories, they were not happy thoughts. They were simply automatic.

She did not know that she used to wear a lot of track suits.

She did not know that she used to let us buy marshmallow cereal and allow us to pick out all of the marshmallows and toss the cereal in the garbage.

She did not know that she always carried salad dressing packets in her purse.

She did not know that she gave me $1.47 in Canadian coins as a wedding gift.

She did not know that she used to know every single thing that ever happened on the Young and the Restless.

She did not know that Emily was her favorite and she was a big fan of telling me that Emily was never going to get lost in this world.

She did not know that her favorite foods were Smart Ones.

She did not know that the only gifts she ever gave us were the $75 checks we used to get at our birthdays and Chanukah.

She did not know that she used to love to take us to Jack’s in Cleveland.

She did not know that the “chai” belt buckle she gave my husband was, like, the greatest gift he ever got.

She didn’t know her stories, her legacy, who she REALLY was.

But we know. And so we told our kids these stories in the car on the way to see her. And we told our kids these stories in the car on the way home from seeing her.

And we tell our kids these stories today, when we tell them that she is gone.

Because that’s who we want them to remember.

That’s who *I* want to remember.

That’s who she’d want us to remember.


  1. Ali, I’m so so sorry to hear about your Grandmother’s passing today. Huge hugs to you…. xo

    Comment by Eileen on February 11, 2012
  2. Thank you. Alzheimer’s is a crappy disease and when it’s affecting someone you care about little things like your story help you remember the value of legacy.

    Comment by Kat on February 11, 2012
  3. Full circle.

    I’m so sorry for her passing today and for the years that have passed, her memory fading.

    Comment by Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] on February 11, 2012
  4. so sorry…I have this horrible disease in my family and it really sucks!! =( may she rest in peace

    Comment by lisa on February 11, 2012
  5. Ali, I’m so sorry for your loss, and I know that nothing I say takes that pain away. Just know that in this moment I am praying for you and your family. Take Care.

    Comment by Lori V. on February 11, 2012
  6. I am so very sorry.


    Comment by gorillabuns on February 11, 2012
  7. <3

    Comment by Alicia on February 11, 2012
  8. I’m so sorry, Ali.

    Love you.

    Comment by Meghan on February 11, 2012
  9. I’m so sorry to hear of her passing, Ali. It sounds like you were all very lucky to have had her in your lives; your children blessed to know her stories. My thoughts are with you all.

    Comment by Tamara on February 11, 2012
  10. Too much sadness and grief this week.

    Just too much.

    Remember your stories, they are her.

    Comment by Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo on February 11, 2012
  11. Alzheimer’s is a horrible, dignity taking disease. My pastor’s mother passed away last week following a battle with Alzheimer’s and all it does to the mind and body. I am so sorry for your loss. You are right though, you remember and that’s where her legacy lies. My best thoughts are with you.

    Comment by Brandy on February 11, 2012
  12. I’m so sorry for your loss – of your grandma when Alzheimer’s took her and of her passing. My husband’s grandpa just passed this week, too. Same disease. My kids will know their great grandpa through my husband’s memories, the way he should be remembered.

    I truly believe they both are back in their own minds again and are finally at peace. Hugs to you and yours.

    Comment by pgoodness on February 11, 2012
  13. I am so sorry for your loss, Ali. Prayers. And love and hugs. xoxo

    Comment by Loukia on February 11, 2012
  14. I am so sorry for your loss. Your words bring tears to my eyes as I remember my Grandfather… he had alzheimers. And as I remember my own Grandmother now gone. You remember her stories – you shared them with family and friends – so she lives on in other’s memories. Hold them close to your heart.

    Comment by Jackie on February 11, 2012
  15. My grandma didn’t know her longtime love of Hot Pockets and Black Velvet by the end of her visit here with us, but we still laugh when we tell her stories. I hope there’s lots of laughter when you share your grandmother’s stories. So sorry for your loss.

    Comment by foradifferentkindofgirl (fadkog) on February 11, 2012
  16. Hugs to all of you.

    There’s so much I love about this post. Starting with Jack’s in Cleveland and “She did not know that Emily was her favorite and she was a big fan of telling me that Emily was never going to get lost in this world.” (Because that is MY Lola) but most of all what I love MOST is seeing that photo of her surrounded by a captivated audience of grandchildren.

    That is my only goal in life.

    Comment by OHmommy on February 11, 2012
  17. Beautifully written. I’m so sorry for your loss. Alzheimer’s really does rob people off their golden years. And I too have often thought that sometimes growing old is just like going back to the early days of life. Glad your grandmother found joy in simple things. I’m sure it was comforting knowing that she was happy in her own way.

    Comment by Katy on February 11, 2012
  18. I’m sorry Ali.

    Comment by Tammi Marie on February 11, 2012
  19. I’m so sorry to read of your loss. I lost my grandmother to that awful disease almost 6 years ago. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Comment by Jennifer on February 12, 2012
  20. I’m so very sorry, Ali. Alzheimer’s is a bitch. It robbed me of many years with my grandmother, too. I think it’s starting with my other grandmother, too.

    This: She didn’t know her stories, her legacy, who she REALLY was. — makes me the saddest. Sending you so many prayers and knowledge that now, SHE KNOWS, too.


    Comment by Jana A (@jana0926) on February 12, 2012
  21. I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing a grandparent is so hard. 🙁

    Comment by Mrs. Wilson on February 12, 2012
  22. My deepest condolences. What a lovely tribute. My grandmother died a few years ago—the final scenes were similar to your grandmother’s situation. So difficult.

    Comment by Chrisy on February 12, 2012
  23. Sorry for your loss Ali.

    Comment by Amy on February 12, 2012
  24. I’m so sorry, Ali. My grandmother died of Alzheimer’s too and before she passed I went to see ‘her’, but it wasn’t really her. Your grandmother, the real ‘her’, will live on in your stories. In one post, you’ve managed to convey so much about this lady. I have no doubt that your kids will think of her as you do. So sorry for your loss.

    Comment by Jen on February 13, 2012
  25. So very sorry for the loss of your grandmother, sounds as if she was a wonderful women. You are wise to keep her beautiful memories in your heart and to share who she really was with your children.

    My childhood friend just lost her father last week – he also had alzheimers. It’s been many years of struggle and heart ache for the family, and even though the heartbreak is worse now that he is gone, they know that his tortured soul is now at peace.

    Comment by Sarah on February 13, 2012
  26. I’m so sorry for your loss. Alzheimer’s and dementia is just awful. Shit, just watching people get old is heartbreaking. I’m glad you all got to visit with her and you have those memories of her to pass on to your kids.


    Comment by Kristabella on February 13, 2012
  27. I’m so very sorry Ali. The world has lost another great woman. Hugs to you.

    Comment by Issa on February 13, 2012
  28. Hey Ali! Very sorry to hear about your grandmothers demise. I have lost one of my very close relating with Alzheimer’s.

    Comment by John Armstrong on February 13, 2012
  29. Ali, I’m sorry for your loss. I know what it’s like to lose someone through Alzheimer’s. I can’t remember if we’ve ever talked about this in our emails, but my grandmother was afflicted as well: http://www.avitable.com/2009/04/14/i-may-have-alzheimers-but-at-least-i-dont-have-alzheimers/

    Comment by Avitable on February 13, 2012
  30. Big, big hugs, Ali.

    She was so blessed to have you guys, who love her so much, and know her so well.


    Comment by Angella on February 14, 2012
  31. Beautiful; simply beautiful. My husband’s grandmother suffered from this horrible disease as well. By the time he & I started dating, she was in a nursing facility. We would go and visit and my husband would sit by her side and read her favorite Psalm. When she would not feed herself or eat for him, she would let me feed her. Although I never got to know the Mamaw she was, I’m glad that I got to meet her; to hear the stories. My heart goes out to all of you, the sadness is so great.

    Comment by Spring Blankenshhip on February 14, 2012
  32. May her memory be a blessing. <3

    Comment by Rachel on February 15, 2012

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