Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Don't get upset Mr. McMurphy

I gave her a hug and a gentle kiss on the cheek.
"Hi Grandma."
"Hi sweetie. Are we leaving now? Let me just pack my clothes."
"No Gram, I'm here to visit."
"Ok, but then we have to go because I need to make dinner."

And so it went. She moved in to an assisted living facility because she can't remember to take her medicine. The others at the retirement village started to shun her. Like a pack of wolves edging out the sick one before it spreads. If someone leaves the room, she greets them anew when they walk back in 2 minutes later. She asks people to call Bobbie in for supper. That was my dad when he was a little boy.

She was an amazing cook, had a great sense of style, was a wonderful artist, always looked like a million bucks, had the greatest giggle you could ever hear and never missed a birthday. This time last year she was doing the New York Times crossword, played a mean hand of duplicate Bridge and knew all our names.

We had to go through all of her possessions. I found a letter I wrote her when I was 11, birthday cards we sent, funny phrases we uttered as little ones that she wrote down. The sum of a person's memories. Proof of what they loved.
What are we if not a collection of our experiences, our skills and talents? Just our bodies, our shell.

The place she's in is nice, the staff is kind, it's the best we could do. It's still One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, and you feel like the crazy is contagious. She's apparently the Jack Nicholson character. She won't accept her fate. She tried to climb out the window the day after we left.

The others slowly joined us like 5 year olds on the first day of school. Edging their chairs in a little closer to settle on the periphery of our circular table. Quiet and bashful. Waiting for someone to ask their name. Then they shyly showed me their treasures. Pat was a pretty blonde, Gabriella loved baseball, Joe was an officer with the NYPD. Her name is Elizabeth. Some of them walked around with shoe boxes containing odds and ends. Figurines, photos, notes from grand-children. After looking at them and remarking upon them and handing then back, they forgot they were theirs.

She asked me to please take her with her. "I don't like it here, I don't know anybody". I couldn't cry until I walked out the door, and now.

You need to be philosophical about it all. Keep your chin up and find the positive. The circle of life and blah, blah, blah. But it's still sort-of fucking horrifying. Sorry.


daisy said...

It is horrific. I'm so sorry. Throw in some tears from me too. I hope she meets people.

LceeL said...

That is so sad. Aw, Eve. That is just so sad.

Tara R. said...

I'm so sorry your grandma is going through this.