I was just sitting here working tonight and feeling very weepy for no apparent reason that I knew of, when I realized that it was 15 years ago today that my Grandma passed away. I guess my heart knew it, even if I wasn’t cognizant of the date. I still miss her so much, and I still feel guilty for not doing more for her – not that anything really could be done. Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease right after my grandpa passed away in 1981. It was so incredibly fast. Grandpa died in July and almost immediately she started showing signs of forgetfulness. The scariest time for me was when she was in the hospital about a month after grandpa passed and I was spending the night at dad’s when the phone rang about 2 a.m. I answered it and it was grandma. She thought she was in a hotel and she couldn’t find grandpa. Holy crap. I wasn’t going to deal with this. I went upstairs to wake dad up, but he wouldn’t come to the phone, he said he’d call her in the morning. (This really did become a pattern with dad where grandma was concerned. I think he felt if he didn’t have to deal with her, nothing really was wrong.) Luckily, by the time I got back to the phone a nurse was in her room and she had told her about grandpa and was getting her back into bed. She was very nice and told me they thought it was just a reaction to the sleeping medication she was getting. If we had only known what was in store.
I think I did relatively well with dealing with her and the Alzheimer’s until she went from assisted living to a nursing home. That was so hard for me. She cried all the way out to the nursing home and kept begging me not to let my dad put her there. I wanted to die, seriously. We stayed for lunch with her, but she just kept crying and crying. One of my best friends worked at the nursing home as the director of nursing, so I knew grandma would get good care, but it was so hard to leave her that day. I promised her I would be back as often as I could, but still it about literally tore my heart out to hear her crying and begging us not to leave her. My mom, of course, was a total bitch throughout the whole thing.
I did go visit her quite a lot, and even took her to my apartment several times, but the last time I took her out it was just an awful experience for all of us. Mel was at my apartment too, when grandma messed her pants. She was so embarassed she wouldn’t come out of the bathroom. We had to go to the store and buy her some new underwear – or maybe it was Depends, I really don’t remember. I wish I had known then that it’s harder for Alzheimer’s patient’s to go out of their home environment. They get very nervous and scared because the place isn’t familiar to them. I almost wish I had never taken her out. The last time I remember her going to a family gathering was the year I met Steve, 1986, and she was at mom and dad’s for Christmas.
It wasn’t long after that before she thought I was my mom and Meghan was me. (OH brother! – like my mom was ever that nice to her!) Anyway, it wasn’t long after that before she didn’t know me at all. That was the hardest thing of all, I think. She raised me. I loved her more than I ever loved my mom, and she didn’t even know me. I’d go visit and cry the entire way home and then some. Finally I just quit going. Bless Mel’s heart she continued to go and visit her regularly, but I just couldn’t. I’d like to go back and do it all again, hopefully I’d be better about visiting. All I did was try to avoid my pain – how selfish can you be?
Even the night she died Mel called me and told me she was dying and I couldn’t go. I just couldn’t. I though before she died that I could never live without her. Even though she was mentally gone and had been for quite some time, I really couldn’t bear the thought of her physically being gone. I really thought I would just… die or something when she was gone. I didn’t, but I miss her every single day. Not a day goes by, seriously, that I don’t think of her. Sometimes the memories are good, she was so funny without trying t be; and sometimes the memories are sad because I miss her so much. I wish she had really known my kids, she would have loved them to death, as she would have all her great-grandchildren. That’s just the way she was. She loved us all unconditionally. I miss her.