For a few years now, my Grandma (my Dad's mom, not my Granny) has been suffering from dementia. It became more severe after my Grandpa passed away, and it wasn't too long before, for her own safety, she needed full-time care.
Living in a care facility full-time, she often couldn't recognise family members, and sometimes thought that she was in pre-war England as a child, wondering why her father was making her stay in some sort of boarding house. At other times, she thought that she was in England during the war.
It was hard to see, knowing that she always took so much pride in her memory. She would adamantly refuse to admit that she was ever wrong. If you ever wanted a good debate, my Grandma was the one to talk to.
We drove to Orillia ealrier this week to visit her. The home she was in was under "quarantine" because of some sort of gastro-intestinal bug that was going around. I was informed that visitation would be at my own risk. Fawn and Jade stayed outside while I went in to see her.
When I saw her, it took me a moment to realise that is was my Grandma. She was thin and frail-looking, sitting in a lounge chair in her room, looking at nothing, but appearing to be deep in thought.
I walked in and took a seat on the bed and said hello. She said hello.
What do you say to someone who likely doesn't recognise you?
I asked her how she was doing.
She replied by saying, "I don't know why..." her voice trailed off, her thought left incomplete.
I sat for a while, looking at her. She wouldn't look directly at me. I picked up a picture of my family and, pointing at me, said, "There I am. Of course, I don't have a beard in that picture."
I handed her the picture. She took it without looking at it and held it close to her lap, as if protecting it from me.
"You still haven't told me..." she said.
I sat for a few moments, saying nothing and trying to decode what it was that I hadn't told her.
I think she wanted to know why I was there. She seemed uncomfortable with my presence.
I told her that I was just there to say hello to her and that it had been a long time since I had seen her. I tried to make small-talk, but she still seemed uncomfortable with my presence.
Standing up to leave, I said to her, "You take care."
After a moment's hesitation, she said, "I don't know what you mean."
I sat down to try explain, but couldn't. I meant it as a figure of speech; that I wished her good health. How could I explain that?
I said goodbye to her and left her sitting there in her chair.
My Grandma was taken to the hospital later that day, and today, she passed away.
I'm upset that I won't be able to attend her funeral. I'm so close, but we're supposed to be out of the country when it's happening. It's hard to think this way, but if I only had the choice between seeing her alive one last time or being there at her funeral, I would choose to the former. And that's what I got, I guess.
It still doesn't make it any easier.
My Grandma was a war bride. Just a few of her many accomplishments in life include raising five kids (one of which passed away), playing the organ for Pope Jean Paul II, writing a children's book, and researching my family history (she was a great genealogist).
I hope that I will always remember her, her giant garden, her fantastic raspberry jam, and the time she tried to make by brother eat eggs.