The cycle of life is quite fascinating to me the older that I become. I'm fascinated by the way we enter this world and more recently the way we exit. Both events have similarities that I have never thought about until recently. My grandmother Ruth has had a rough go of it lately. In the last 3 months I believe that she has spent more time in the hospital than she has out of it. Between a broken pelvis, a broken femur, and several other injuries due to falls, she has probably forgotten what her own home looks like.
My grandmother has always been forgetful, absent-minded, and just plain unorganized. I remember on multiple occasions the losing of Christmas gifts (Hope and Laura remember the Lauren perfume?), money that was misplaced, pieces of paper that were stacked and needed, but unable to be found. We laughed about it when we were growing up. She did too.
I'm not sure when we reached a turning point, but her forgetfulness became an area of concern among family. Being out of town, it became very apparent to me how much she had lost in the last few years on each visit. She asks me about my children, mistaking me for Jannie. I've been asked about people who are no longer living and had countless repetitive conversations.
Each time that I've returned home, my heart breaks because I don't know how much longer she will recognize me, be able to hold a conversation, remember my name. Absence can in fact make the heart grow fonder, but when faced with the realities of Alzheimers, absence is just plain absence.
Now partnered with this diminishing disease, she is having problems with her mobility. Hence, the multiple falls in a short period of time. Most recently, she stumbled bringing her dishes to the sink and is now in the hospital with a titanium rod as a femur. Over the last few months, my mom and dad, along with Aunt Diana have performed a 24 hour bedside vigil. Always present in case she needs something. My grandfather cannot pick her up if she falls, so someone always needs to be there. My mom has spent countless nights away from home just in case. A month ago, even though she waited until Maw Maw went to bed before getting ready to sleep herself, my grandmother climbed on a chair to turn the ceiling fan off and fell. Maybe she forgot that she isn't able to climb.
She has had frequent visitors. My grandfather spends the days keeping watch and never leaving her side, my mom and Aunt Diana spend the nights, my dad spends the evenings, and many others peppered in between. Aunt Joyce and Aunt Leatrice make the drive quite frequently from Reserve, LA to just spend time with her. Countless church friends who my grandmother has spent hours taking care of now come to take care of her.
There are little things that I will always remember and wonder if she does still: the green and yellow sequined parrot magnets on her refrigerator, the cartoon character glasses that all the cousins fought over, the day trip to Donaldsonville to show me where she grew up, the shopping trips where she bought me pink shorts, the Club crackers or peppermint patty birthday gifts, the red typewriters, the time I found her a little tipsy making rum balls for Christmas, the Halloween parties, Christmas Eve gatherings, trips to Lake Mary and the special markers, and her wonderful ham sandwiches.
I'm fascinated by 4 year old children who constantly question and explore their environment, testing out everything around them. My grandmother has returned to her childhood, remember things that are so deeply embedded in her memory, but yet, she can't remember if she has eaten lunch. She asks for her mother who has been gone since for 36 years or so. The cycle has come full circle and I wonder how many moments I have left.