Here’s the post I’ve been dreading. The one that’s been keeping me up at night. It’s the story of a woman I love…my grandma.
Have you ever been to a care home? Funny the name they call it. I guess it is a home for people who need care, but if you spent any time in the ones that I’ve been to it really doesn’t sound or smell like the way you think it would. It’s not angel food cake and chocolate chip cookies. The way you wish all grandmas could smell forever.
It’s the putrid smell of urine and harsh chemicals that always gets me. When I open the front door, the pungent odor tickles my noise kind of like the way pepper does to make me sneeze. It’s the first impression I get and the last memory that stays with me after I leave.
If you haven’t ever been there, you may be surprised by what you see. Your senses will betray you. The sound of patient’s moaning and screaming seem more fitting in a Halloween haunted house than a home for someone you care about. Yet, it does pull you sharply back to reality. And the sounds, well they start to fade. It’s the souls covered by emotionless faces that really affect me.
Surprisingly, I enjoy being there. Maybe it takes me a few tries but when I get there even with smells that make someone like me easily nauseated, I don’t want to leave. My grandma is there. I wait for her. I wait for her to recognize me.
Most of the time the waiting is torturous. It causes my insides to tremble. Kind of like love spewing out at the seams. I cannot hold it in. At my wedding my eyes were tearless but my grandma, she pours out the soul in me.
Why do I love it there? I love that she’s there. That like the care home, my grandma’s body holds someone I love, deep inside. That most times I see blank beady eyes in front of me but I know, she’s there, she’s somewhere in front of me.
This time I waited she had her eyes closed. Her mind was lost. Kind of like me in a care home. I didn’t know what I was seeing. I didn’t know the residents there. I was only guided by my love for her. She was my direction as I hoped our voice would be to her.
“Come back grandma. We’re still here. We know you’re still in there.”
She reached out this time. Reached out and held our hands. I hugged her bony shoulders and held her wrinkled hands. Time passes. Memories become erased. But I still remember. I won’t let go. I won’t forget.
I barely knew her pre-Alzheimer’s. But I still loved her and love her in this state. I am patient the way parents are with their kids but I am only patient like this with her.
I watch now as she moves her hands like the lizard without a tail, movement with a purpose. Threading the imaginary needle to keep them busy like they were when they would orchestrate her life, cooking, baking, sewing. Fielding the busyness inside her mind.
She cries out when the wind hits. It scares her. We try to soothe her, comfort her with the arms of people who she doesn’t know. She closes her eyes. I wonder if to shut out the world, the one that’s so unfamiliar to her and of the people, the one that tell her they are family but she doesn’t recognize. She shuts them out and yet there’s little peace.
My grandma. Her hands now speak what her mind fails to communicate. She grabs our hands and reaches out. And I believe. That maybe inside a confusing mind, there lies a still soul waiting patiently for love to rescue her from chaos and disorientation. A blurring of the line between the past in the present. She jumps between worlds in a way that we cannot participate nor contribute.
I listen like a new mother listens to her unborn baby’s heartbeat. With love and intent. But I listen so hard my ears hurt. I’m hoping to hear something that makes sense. And sometimes I do, and that gift makes me feel the kind of pure joy only love can bring. The day is good.
Life is good. Embrace it. I’m fortunate. I’m grateful. Grandma has given me a gift. She has opened my heart to love. Love without communication. Love that comes only from the reaching of one wrinkled hand to another.