My mom is leaving in the morning for a trip to Denver, Co. For 26 years of my life I would travel with my parents to see my 2 grandmas and my various aunts and uncles and cousins for approximately 2 weeks. We would trade time between my dad’s mom and my mom’s mom, Grandma Waggoner/Summers and Grandma Shirley respectively. It was always a great time. Grandma Summers had a great tv and video collection and an amazing culinary skill. She made the best cookies and meals I have ever had, although most of what she made I cannot eat today.
Grandma Shirley had the amazing pool and all the little debbie’s you could eat. My grandfather, a man I never got the chance to meet, built the house and the indoor pool with his bare hands. It is a house full of memories and history and it means absolutely nothing without Grandma Shirley in it.
When we traveled to my Grandma Summers funeral in May we went to see Grandma Shirley at the home and to visit the house my grandfather built. It was an empty experience. The first day we visited Grandma Shirley in the home she wasn’t herself. She didn’t make any sense and she kept playing with a doll. It was so hard to see. It is so hard to remember. It was really hard because even though she had no idea who we were there were still attributes that I recognized. When she was talking she used the same hand gestures and when she was trying to think of something, something none of us could comprehend she looked down and focused like she used to when telling a story.
The second day we visited her was a little better. When we got there she was lethargic which in my mind was better than the playing with the doll day we had experienced the day earlier. We were quite a bigger group so we went out into another area and after Grandma had a little nap she came to join us. She was so much better. She wasn’t completely there but she was more in the room than she had been previously. She and I had a conversation that I could follow and she asked my older sister why she was so sad. It was a great little moment and a truly saddening moment as well. Grandma’s here but she’s not and the moments that she’s here makes up for the moments when she’s not but it makes the moments that she’s not even harder to deal with.
After we saw Grandma at the home we went back to the house where I spent so many summers playing games, and talking with Grandma and walking around the lake across the street. The house was empty without her. Most of her things were still there but she wasn’t. It was the shell of what it used to be, just like she is.
My mother is leaving in the morning for a short trip to see her mom, a trip that will be gut wrenching, a trip that might not be any fun at all. As I hugged her good-bye (because she’s leaving before I get up) I wanted to say, “Say hello to Grandma for me” but then I rethought it. My Grandma may not even recognize her own daughter let alone remember who I am.
I try not to hate anything in this world but I HATE ALZHEIMER’S! I hate it with everything that is inside of me. Alzheimer’s has stolen my grandmother, a woman I love with my whole heart.
So I’m weeping again, what a joy (sarcasm). There are times when I live in denial about my grandma being for all intents and purposes gone. I live in that place and then reality slams into me like a bus and I have no choice but to stare into it and deal with it. I have no choice but to sit in the pain and let it wash over me. If I ignore it now, it will only get harder to deal with.
I learned that lesson the hard way. If you stuff your feelings, your realities, your emotions and never deal with it, it will explode all over you. So you have to deal with it when it comes up. I wasn’t going to write this post because I feel like I have written it so many times over the last few months but I decided that my need to process was more important than my need to write something interesting for my readers to partake.
Deal with your stuff when it happens because stuffing it doesn’t make it go away, it just makes it harder to deal with in the end.
So I’m sitting in my room, listening to a Third Day CD and weeping. I’ll live through this pain which is the triumph I give to you today. 8 years ago I never would have allowed myself cry. I would have had an anxiety attack, lying on the ground not being able to breathe, not feeling safe and all because I believed that if I started crying or if I sat in the pain I would never get out of it. The truth is that is not true. If you deal with pain it cannot overcome you. If you allow yourself to deal with the sadness or disappointment when it comes or anger when it hits or whatever emotion you shy away from, if you allow yourself to deal with it when it happens it cannot overcome you.
8 years ago I was on the highest level of depression meds you can be on and I decided to stop taking them. I decided that not feeling anything was not okay and I started a journey of feeling things when they happen and not being afraid of emotions.
Right now my heart hurts but I am dealing with it and not allowing it to overcome me. That is the good news. The situation sucks but it is not overpowering me. I am sad but I know that I will not stay sad forever.