Monday, October 13, 2008

"Don't Forget Me"

The last few months that I lived in Miami were bittersweet. I was so excited to start something new and exciting in North Carolina, but I hated having to leave behind everything I knew and loved. I don't usually cry about Grandma, and never in front of her, but it was different on my last morning there.
August 7, 2008.
I had my 4 closest friends helping load up the Uhaul, and eating pastelitos.
I had my parents walking around in a frenzied mess.
My aunt and grandmother visited, saying the last goodbyes.
I said goodbye to Grandma, who wasn't very sad since she would soon forget again that I was moving away.
I didn't see it coming, but when I hugged Grandma I started crying. For real. Streaming tears I had a hard time choking back. And I said the hardest words to her I have ever said to her, and asked her for the one thing that would be hardest for her to give.
"Don't forget me."
She smiled and replied, "Of course I won't. I love you."
But I knew the truth. Deep down. Little by little, like kudzu, her memories of me would lose ground.
I take refuge in the fact that I won't forget her. Before the dementia. And after.
And I love her.
And I understand.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Deja Vu (Or the third time moving into the same house)

We have officially moved out of our old house (though a lot of our 'stuff' is still there) and into our new house... which is in fact a much older house. This house has so much history in my family. You see, this is the third time we move into this house. This house is the one my parents brought me home from the hospital to. In fact, I am sleeping in the same room I slept in as a newborn. We moved out long before I can remember, but my parents bought my grandparents' house in another area of Miami, and my grandparents bought my parents' house. They just swapped houses!!! Several years later we sold our house in Kendall to live closer to my aging grandfather. He passed away before we could buy a house nearby, so we just stayed with my grandmother for a few months. That was the second time I moved into this little house on the prairie. And now, we are looking at the third move into this house. I thought I would hate it, but I just love it. It took us a while to figure out how to distinguish the two houses, since they are only 8 blocks apart, but now I just call it home. Even though it was grandma's home. And sometimes 'the new house' though it is much older than the one we just moved out of...

It's nice to downsize. I realize all the stuff I held onto is stuff that I just never use, or even look at! My grandmother will have a smaller house she has to get around, which is good for her! I get a normal bedroom- good for me to get used to, since I've been spoiled with a studio apartment-like bedroom! And my dog- she gets a huge yard to run around and play in. Plus- the kitchen, dining room and living room are all connected, so I can watch TV with my parents while I cook in the kitchen (though it's hard to hear). There's a screened-in porch in front, and an orchid house in the back. I plan to grow a little garden- with gerbera daisies, and calla lilies; with oregano, parsley, carrots, cilantro and sugar snap peas! Maybe I can enlist grandma's help. We'll see. Right now we're working on getting her to remember what we're doing in this house. Every other day or so, she'll ask, "Are we moving in here?" or "Are we living here now?" followed by "Why?" But I'm pretty sure the old house will be gone from her memory soon enough... which means an end to these redundant questions. At least this is the last time we move into this house (I think)!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Is Dementia Contagious?

The doctors say dementia is not contagious, but I am beginning to wonder. In my haste to book an exciting trip to New York, I checked my calendar to make sure I don't have anything going on, scanned my (inconsistent) brain, and decided to buy tickets with Lauren to go to New York - April 3-6. One problem: Grandma's birthday is in there. That doesn't move every year. I have celebrated it with her every year. I am pretty sure that dementia is contagious, because I completely forgot until the next day. I was so apologetic to everyone, but considering Grandma has no memory, we decided that I would just make it up to her. We'll still celebrate her birthday on the 6th, but we'll have a bigger deal some other day to celebrate that she's 80!!! Who knew? She's like a little energizer bunny. She just keeps going, and going, and going. And I get to celebrate her birthday AND go to New York because in the long run... she just won't remember. Still, we will - so I'd better make her souvenir a good one.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Losing Our Marbles

On Sunday, the pastor talked about spending our time wisely. He said that Americans have an average life span of about 70 years (and he rounded up to 80 to be nice). He has a jar, full of marbles. 12 for every year between now and when he hits 80. He's 44, so he has another 36 years (that makes 432 marbles). We did the math on our family and:
Dad is 50, so he has 360 marbles left.
Mom has sworn me to secrecy.
I am 23, so I have 684 marbles left.
Grandma turns 80 in 3 months, so she only has 3 marbles left.
We told grandma that in 3 months she would lose all her marbles; too true. We all had a good laugh.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Driving Grandma

In the recent past, I have gone on a couple of road trips with Grandma. Though frustrating, they are inevitably chock full of funny lines and memorable conversations. One weekend I took Grandma to Lake Placid. Just me and her :) My parents were out of town, so I kidnapped her so I could work on the house up there. US-27 is not a bad road; I think people hate on it more than it deserves. It's scenic, and doesn't take much longer than other ways like the Turnpike. Nonetheless, there is this stretch, this god-forsaken stretch, when one gets off of/passes by I-75 and heads north towards Lake Okeechobee. There is nothing to be seen. And I'm sorry, but a person could go crazy with nothing to look at or say or do. So, what does one do when bored and with the company of grandma? (hehehe) I would say something obnoxious like: "I'm so tired (yawn). I think I'll take a little nap. Can you keep an eye on things for me?" This might not have been a big deal, were I not driving at 70 miles an hour. She said no, but I went ahead and closed my eyes. *wink wink- I only closed my right eye. Within seconds, she was pounding on my right arm, insisting, "Anne Marie! Open your eyes! This isn't funny!"
That got me through at least 5 minutes of boredom. And then I would start all over again. The best part of this story is, when we got back into Miami, she turned to me and said, "Anne Marie, you are such a safe driver; not speeding or changing lanes. Thank you, sweetie."
Of course I just said "Thank you" back. Nevermind that I was thanking her for keeping me awake.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Guess Who

While we are not (yet) to the point where Grandma guesses who we are, she seems to have developed a new favorite past-time... wanting to know all the other trivia about us. It's like breaking the ice right after a pickup line - only it's coming from a 79-year-old. We can be talking (in the middle of a conversation), driving somewhere, watching TV or cooking dinner and she pipes in:
G-ma: How old are you?
Me: I'm 23.
G-ma: What did you do today?
Me: I went to work.
G-ma: Where do you work?
Me: Latin America Mission.
G-ma: Are you in school?
Me: Yes.
G-ma: And you're how old?
You can see, I hope, where this gets old (literally). Still, never a dull moment.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


It has been a long time, so I long I can't remember, since I went to Fairchild Tropical Gardens. It's bigger than I remember. We couldn't get through it all! It was really nice to go there on my birthday a couple of weeks ago, and take Grandma. A lot of times, we trade 'watching her' with my aunt for special events, and there are lots of things my aunt does that Grandma just can't do anymore - especially 5Ks, hehe. Anyway, for better or worse, she changes the tone of things. Experiences, outings, meals and even tv shows are dramatically different when she's around. And a lot of times, it isn't for the better. But Fairchild was. And I was glad we didn't trade her on my birthday.

She looked happy and engaged. More and more she seems bored and distant, but she was talkative, even chirpy like a bird. If only I could've taken a picture of her face when she saw these iguana/kimodo dragon/giant lizard thingies. There was a whole family of them, and we stopped to look, along with a family with young children. Grandma was more excited than the young children.

I wish I could write a funny story right now. But sometimes, when you care for someone with dementia, a funny story just doesn't come to mind. Don't get me wrong- I smile when I think of her. She makes me laugh often. But she also makes us frustrated and angry. Because she will never be the person she was. And because one day she won't even know our names. A lot of people are putting their parents/grandparents in nursing homes now. I dread the day that happens with Grandma. There are just some things that don't change with her- she loves sweets, she prays 'that others may see Jesus in us' everytime we ask her to say grace, and she can't get over gas prices. She says she remembers when it was 15 cents a gallon.

If you have an aging parent or grandparent then you know how bittersweet it is to care for them, especially if they have more mental than physical deterioration. But for all the hard moments, I treasure the tender moments that I still have with her. She will not always be here. The last couple months have not been hilarious, but I have learned to treasure her. And see aging through different eyes. I no longer dread the possibility that I could age like she has. Her life is good. She has a family and a God that loves her, and I'm not sure what's better than that.
It was nice to watch dad and her around the gardens. I love how he almost loses her at the end of this video...