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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

To Remember or Not

I went to go visit my grandmother, Baba, yesterday down in Westport.  It had been only about two weeks since I last went to visit her, yet, despite the relatively short period of time between visits, I still arrived uncertain as to how I would find her.  At this point, I hold no expectations as to what her memory might retain or not for that matter.   Despite the fact that she has not forgotten that I am her grandson or the fact that I have a son (whose name is still embedded in her brain like a branding iron), I don't know what else she will remember.  Even in regards to me, I know that one day I will arrive and she will have no idea who I am.   I hope that day doesn't happen anytime soon, but I know that it will come, sooner or later.   Outside of her immediate family, which depending on the day could be smaller or larger in her memory, she has very few other things she remembers at this point.  She does know that the building across the street from where she lives is a school and she often times walks to that window simply to look out, enjoy the sun a little, and also the view.  Yet that seems to be one of the few mainstays left that she remembers.  When I went to visit her yesterday I was a little worried if she would remember me or not as I had shaved off my hefty beard and mustache in the morning.  As I was walking down the hall to see her, she was slowly making her way towards me.  As I approached, she look up and got this really puzzled, confused look on her face.  It wasn't until I was about 3 feet away and said, "Hi, Baba," that she recognized who I was without my facial hair.  I was grateful that I didn't have to try and explain what happened or who I was.  Once she recognized me, she immediately set out on her mission to tell everyone who I was.  She told the nurses at the station, she walked up to everyone in the dining room and told them who I was, and of course anyone else we ran into had to be stopped so she could tell them that I was her grandson.  She seemed so proud.  I chuckled to myself a little here and there, not at her, but at her personality.   When we were in the dining room, mostly full of patients who don't understand or can't respond, she went up to one lady who was moaning and flailing a little and asked, "Why are you making that ugly face? Stop making that ugly face.  This is my grandson."  It was odd, but tinged with a bit of humor if you knew my grandmother.  She also tried to have me shake all their hands as we were leaving to go back to her room.  I didn't even bother because most of them didn't know I was there or couldn't function to the point of shaking my hand.  I just let it go. 
I was thrown off a few times here and there by what she said.  On our way to the dining room, she pointed out the school across the street that she likes to look at, a good display of her memory or what little she has left.  Yet moments later as we sat briefly in the dining room, which faces the opposite direction of the school, she pointed to the two wings of her building and told me that it was a school as well except she didn't know how old the kids were that went there.  At the same time she also told me there was a baby crying earlier in the school (her building) and that she didn't know where the baby came from.  I've learned that some things are better left uncorrected at this point.  She knows what she thinks she knows and that will be that.  I have also learned that at this point it is mostly better to talk to her, tell her stories about what is going on in my life and my families life than to let her get on her loops.  Her brief stories that she tells, while occasionally lasting a little longer than a minute, are mostly just repeated loops that she gets stuck on.  I have found that if I simply talk to her, tell her stories, she seems to be much better off.   That isn't to say I don't let her talk, however the moment I hear her going into one of her loops I tell her another story of my son and how he is developing.  I change things around so that we don't focus on one aspect of him and it seems to go fairly well.  Even with that, she can still get stuck on one loop and keep on going back to that as if it is the one thing she remembers at that point in time.  I was there for about an hour yesterday and by the end of the hour, I could tell that she was getting a little tired, her loops were more insistent, her demeanor getting sluggish, and her fantasy world was starting to creep in.  While the whole visit was very good and she even remembered my wife's name one time on her own (an astonishment to me), I could tell by the end that I had to go.  I could have stayed there for another hour, but I think it would have pushed her a little too far.   For a brief period before I left, every time she heard a man's voice in the hallway, she asked me if David had gotten home (my dad).  At first I said no, that he wasn't coming, but at her repeated insistence that he had actually arrived home due to the male voice in the hallway, I conceded that maybe he had. 
As I was leaving, we went to go look for both my mom and dad.  We went down the hallway that her room is on (also the hallway that doubles as a school for children) and halfway down she started calling for my mom and looking in every room we passed to see if she was there.  I told her I didn't think she was here right now.  She agreed shortly after that she probably wasn't and then said she would walk me to the elevator.  It almost seems at this point that her whole live is being condensed in her mind to a very brief period of time.  Her entire life of over 90 years is being shortened in her mind to a year maybe two.  Yet at times it seems like she remembers more than she does.  It can be disconcerting to someone who isn't aware of what is going on.  I simply enjoy the time I spend with her and the enjoyment I see on her face when I tell her about my son.  She told me yesterday that she doesn't dream anymore (which to me says she doesn't remember) and has a hard time telling if she slept well or not.  Perhaps most disconcerting to me is the fact that she doesn't read anymore.  It probably isn't that fact that she doesn't want to, she just probably doesn't remember to read.  So the one book she has remains in her drawer with her bookmark keeping the same page marked.  It hasn't moved in weeks, neither the book or the bookmark, and probably won't move again.  She will on occasion flip through magazines, but that is about it.  I don't know what she does all day, and it is probably best that I don't.  I try not to get sad when I think about what she doesn't do anymore, but it never happens, the tears always come.  Instead I mostly focus on her as she was and her personality now, nothing else.  As long as I can here her talk to me and I can tell her stories about my life and my wife and son, then nothing else matters at this point.  She still gets excited to see me, still wants to know about her great grandson, and her curiosity at that is what keeps me happy right now.  I tell myself every time I walk into her building not to think to much, just to be, to enjoy, and to remember.  So far, I have been able to do that.  We shall see what happens in the future, but for now, she is OK.

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