I don’t know much about Alzheimers/Dementia – in fact, I know nothing more than how difficult it is to watch and experience alongside someone you love…
I am blessed to have close relationships with both my immediate and extended family. My parents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and I have spent a number of memorable and amazing vacations, holidays, events, and visits together throughout my almost-28 years and I can say with complete confidence and conviction that my family, both immediate and extended, takes number one in my life: my number one blessing and my number one favorite thing.
I have two grandparents here still (and wonderful-solid memories of the 18-25 years with the two that are doing their thing in heaven now).
My grandparents, Granne and Pop / Anne and Ray, have been married for 61 years; they have 3 children, 3 married-in-children, 6 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren, and a Katie (a beloved Shih Tzu / dog-child). These facts have been my grandmother’s favorite things to tell people. Whether they be new friends, old friends, pastors, nail technicians, receptionists, waitresses, bartenders, or janitorial staff; if they’ve crossed paths with my grandmother, they know she has been married for 61 years… has 3 children, 3 married-in-children, 6 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren, and a Katie.
Growing up, I have to admit I sometimes shrunk from the long family rundown she’d do for strangers… but now my grandmother is starting to forget… and thinking on it now, on her repeatedly listing us as the first thing she wanted someone (anyone, everyone) to know about her… that love… I can’t help but want that repeat-rundown back…
Granne, I can’t even imagine what you’re going through right now. I know you’re forgetting some things and, it seems to me at least, you’re starting to forget them faster these days. I know that the things happening in your life don’t make sense to you; it’s hard to keep track of events, people, and timelines and as a result, some of your behaviors aren’t “you” anymore. I know you fight them. I know you want to be strong; to be yourself and to be who you’ve always been for all of us. I know you’re scared, Granne. Who could blame you?
Here’s the thing though, Granne… you don’t have to be scared (and as I’ll explain, neither do we).
You married an amazing man 61-years ago; our beloved Pop, a man who, no matter how hard it gets, no matter the challenge, no matter the drama or the controversy, chooses you; who never wavers on the words, “she’s my girl” in the face of the fight.
You brought three people up in this crazy world; taught them to work hard, to care for one another, to love other people, to have faith, to be strong, to laugh at themselves, and to give back… and they married three people who do the same.
Your three (turned six) people, brought more people into the world and taught them (us!) to work hard, to care for one another, to love other people, to have faith, to be strong, to laugh at ourselves, and to give back.
You see Granne, you created and trained your own team; a team of people who were taught the qualities that a good life requires; the qualities that are especially required now. These people… your people… love you, will take care of you, look out for you, cheer you on, and fight for what’s best for you.
Here’s the other thing Granne, you also taught us to do all these things for each other. We’ll travel through life loving each other, taking care of each other, looking out for each other, cheering each other on, and fighting for what’s best for one another.
You don’t have to be scared for you and you don’t have to be scared for us – because you gave us the gift of each other – which, I have to say, is my very favorite thing.
As you start to forget, Granne, we don’t want you to worry; we won’t. We’ll hold on to the memories that you may not always be able to recall.
We’ll hold on to Charleston, Folly, Seabrook… your “pink house and purple car,” your shrimp and grits, your giant Christmas tree, your mac-n-cheese recipe…
We’ll hold on to the recitals, concerts, tournaments, games, graduations, and weddings you were at… the dances we’ve danced, the games we’ve played, the fun and laughs we’ve had…
We’ll hold on to your strength, your determination, your southern sass, your protective nature, your family-focus, and your ability to chug a frozen margarita in 3 seconds flat…
We’ll hold on to the memories and stories of the parties you had, the friendships you cultivated, the people you helped, the places you’ve seen, the support you’ve provided, the amazing wife/mother/grandmother you’ve been, and the endless love you continue to give… even as life changes around you.
Granne, it’s going to be different, but it’s going to be okay. We are a forever-team. You are not alone. You don’t have to be scared… we’ve got this… because we’ve always had you.
So much appreciation, respect, and love forever and ever and ever.