Friday, June 6, 2008

The Crazy Red Haired Lady in the Supermarket

My grandmother is coming to stay at my parents on Sunday.

For Two Weeks.

I love my grandmother. Seriously, I do. I count myself very lucky to have her still with us. As a young child she was my favorite grandparent. She let me get away with everything. Well, almost everything. There were a number of wooden spoons broken over my hands or backside. She bought me whatever I wanted- Barbies, Toys, food, games, WHATEVER. She was who I used to call when my parents would argue, which was rare, and I wanted the argument to end. I'd call her, talk to her for a few minutes give her the low down and then hand my mom the phone. That did not always go over well at my house but it made me feel better. I would spend my summers with her and my grandfather at their house in Florida. They took me to Disney and Busch Gardens. They took me on day cruises and to the beach. They kept me occupied and provided me with tons of memories. They were my favorite grandparents for a long time, she was my ultimate favorite. And really, I think I'm her favorite- or I was.

My grandmother was spunky and outgoing and fun. She was a Social Studies teacher for years. She loves America. Like seriously loves America. Like you've never met someone who loves America this much. Seriously. She is a great cook- or was. She was pretty much up for anything. She could talk to ANYONE. She was the crazy lady with the bright red hair who talked to you in the supermarket and you walked away better for the experience. She wrote her name in, and so did many of her friends and neighbors, any time she voted. She secretly smoked cigarettes for years on end until we finally made her stop because she always had Bronchitis. In retrospect, we should've let her keep smoking. She was incredible. Seriously incredible.

Then my grandfather got sick.

Then my grandfather became completely dependent on my grandmother's care. Not that he wasn't before.

Then my grandmother lost herself in her sense of duty, commitment and care for her husband.

My grandmother, from what I know, has always lived her life for her husband and her family. She "quit" smoking because my grandfather didn't want to marry a woman who smoked. She secretly smoked in the bathroom. (The stories I could tell you about the bathroom and cigarettes!) She moved to Florida partially because she wanted to but mainly because my grandfather wanted to. My grandmother had always wanted to travel. She wanted to see the United States. She wanted to see our country from an RV and from the open road. Not my idea of fun or the ideal vacation but she would have LOVED it! My grandfather didn't want to. They moved to Florida. There seems to be a lot that she gave up or put aside for him.

My grandfather was sick for a long time. It came on slowly. He stopped. He stopped being involved in things. He stopped doing. He stopped using his brain. The Alzheimer's took over at that point. He had other medical issues, too, but the Alzheimer's was what really took him down. That, coupled with the Parkinson's. For the early years of the disease my grandmother cared for him. She reminded him when he forgot. She gave him what he needed. She dealt with his mood swings. It, like it always does, became progressively worse. She stayed on top of things because she was caring for him. Her mind stayed fresh because she was reading pill bottles and doctor instructions and bills and trashy romance novels. Her spirit, not so much.

The Memorial Day after I graduated from college my then fiancee and our friends traveled to Florida. We went to Disney and then continued down to South Florida to spend a few days with my grandparents. They had never met my future husband.

This was the turning point for me.

This was when I discovered it was bad.

I laid in my bed, in my room, the room I always slept in, my door open waiting for sleep. Then I heard it. Crying. Someone was crying. I thought the future husband was watching TV in the other room before he fell asleep. Then I heard my grandmother's voice. She was comforting my grandfather. And then the words, the words that rocked me to my core, sobbed by my grandfather

"I am so scared, Anne."

I wanted to get up and close the door. I wanted to forget I heard it. I wanted it to be a dream. It was not. I rolled over, cried and went to sleep. We drove back home a few days later and I shared it with my mother.

My grandparents were living in NY with my aunt and uncle within months.

My grandfather died a few years later.

My grandmother has never recovered. She was never sick. She still is not sick. She has had every test, procedure, X-Ray, MRI, CT Scan, known to the medical community. While she is not sick we did discover that she had a stroke, probably within the last year or two. No one knew. This accounts for her memory loss, maybe even for a little bit of her depression and motor problems. But it does not account for the loss of spirit and self that occurred in the past 10 years.

Some days, I cannot stand to be around my grandmother. I feel horrible writing those words but they are the truth. She's a whiner. She wants everyone to take care of her. She wants to complain and she wants to be sick. I can't deal with that. I know what she was like. She knows what she was like. She wants someone to live their life or lives just for her and her needs. The person that should have done that isn't here anymore, he died.

Some days, I enjoy being with her. She ADORES my kids. She loves playing with them and kissing them and loving them. And my son? He cannot get enough of his great grandma. I think that is just the most fabulous thing. He asks about her. He even is starting to crack jokes about her constant "headaches". (My grandmother is a Tylenol junkie. Seriously. We give her vitamin C and tell her it's Tylenol. It gets the job done.) She loves to tell stories of my mother's cousin who shares the same first name as my son. She makes comparisons between my relatives and cousins and my kids. Some days, I get glimpses of the grandmother that I had growing up.

Those are the days I am grateful for. Those are the days I want to remember.

My grandmother is coming to stay with my parents on Sunday. She's staying for two weeks. I'm not excited for her visit and that makes me sad. My son is beyond excited to see his great grandma again. I have to wonder if he sees her spirit where I cannot anymore. Does he experience her the same ways that I did? Am I missing something?

My grandmother is a woman of incredible strength and determination. She has not had an easy life. I try to remember that. I do my very best to remember the endless junk food and toys and trips and summers together. I do all that I can to remember her as I know her to really be. She is sad now and I don't want her to be.

My grandmother is coming to stay with my parents on Sunday. She's staying for two weeks. I am going to do all that I can to see her through my son's eyes. He clearly sees the crazy red haired lady in the supermarket and he is so much better off for having experienced her.

I am too.


OHmommy said...

For your children.... you should sit back and enjoy every minute.

They love her. And so do you. That is apparent. ;)

Bunchy said...

Wow, I can kinda relate to this, except for me, my grandma was really sick with Alzheimers for several years before she died, and my kids just remember a silent drooling woman in a wheelchair instead of the spunky fun-loving grandma I remember. You'll handle it just fine, I'm sure.

BTW, I mentioned you in my blog post today, just so ya know! ;)

Lane Boyz Mom said...

I just wanted you to know that this made me stop and think of my grandparents...all of which are gone now, but I am taking the moment to sit back and remember all of the good times I had with them:)

ConverseMomma said...

Family is never easy, but why should they be. They know we will love them no matter what, right? Oh, wait, that is unless they are my in-laws. Hope the kids have fun with all that crazy good grandma love.

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