I went to see my Grandma last week.
But that woman sitting in that chair? She is NOT my Grandma.
Sure, she might look like her, but it’s not her. She is a woman whose body and mind are riddled with a shitty, shitty disease called Alzheimer’s. She is a woman who lives in a lovely home in Georgia, where they sit her in the sun and sing to her and read to her and cook for her and love on her. But she doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know where she is. She doesn’t recognize me or my sister or my brother or my father or my stepmom. She doesn’t recognize Emily or Joshua or Isabella. She doesn’t remember how to use the bathroom. She doesn’t remember how to use utensils. She doesn’t remember words well enough to string coherent sentences together. She doesn’t remember the difference between laughing and crying.
She cries a lot.
She cries so much it makes me cry.
She cries so much it makes my kids cry.
They tell us that she occasionally uses the names of my Grandpa. Of my dad. Of my sister. Of me. There are shades of her that escape her lips…but they are not memories, they are not happy thoughts. They are simply automatic. They are just as automatic as her crying. She does not know that she used to wear a lot of track suits. She does 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 does not know that she always carried salad dressing packets in her purse. She does not know that she gave me $1.47 in Canadian coins as a wedding gift. She does not know that she used to know every single thing that ever happened on the Young and the Restless. She does 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 does not know that her favorite foods were Smart Ones. She does not know that the only gifts she ever gave us were the $75 checks we used to get at our birthdays and Chanukah. She does not know that she used to love to take us to Jack’s in Cleveland.
But we know. And so we tell our kids these stories in the car on the way to see her. And we tell our kids these stories in the car on the way home from seeing her.
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.