Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"I Love You Too"

I have been sitting in front of my computer for over five hours now, trying to decide what to write. There is a lump in my throat and there are tears welling up in the corners of my eyes as I reflect back on my visit to Pennsylvania four weeks ago. I went back with my parents to see my two grandmothers and my aunt and uncle and some cousins. I was looking forward to the trip and thoroughly enjoyed playing games and spending time with everyone.

But there were some difficult moments too. A year ago it became necessary to place my grandma in a care facility. She has advanced Alzheimer's as well as a number of physical health issues that made it unsafe for her to remain at home with my aunt and her family. It was a difficult decision for everyone, but grandma's condition was really declining rapidly. I had not seen my grandma since       
July 4, 2014. When I last saw her, she was able to go to a picnic with us in her wheelchair, and sit and visit with me. She did not remember what we were talking about, but she was able to participate in the conversation and laugh and smile. Grandma has changed so much.

The first time I went to see her she was lying in her bed on her back, sound asleep. When I had come around the corner and first laid eyes on her, I stopped suddenly, as the sight of her frail body took my breath away. Her mouth had fallen open and her eyes were fluttering behind her paper thin eyelids. She was breathing deeply and evenly. Her skin was cool and clammy to the touch. I took the back of my hand and gently brushed a wisp of snow white hair away from her brow and bent down to give her a kiss on the forehead. I'm not even sure if she knew I was there.

I went back to see her the next afternoon, as they called from the care facility and said that she was awake and up in her chair. When we got there, we found her up in her recliner, leaning over to the right, and yelling. I pulled up a chair in  front of her and said hello. The only response that I got from my grandma was yelling "Ahhhh, ahhhh, ahhhh". I tried asking if she was hurting. I tried propping a pillow behind her back. I tried rubbing her arm. My cousin tried singing to her. It was just tearing me apart. Finally, it was time for us to leave. I got up from my chair and went over and knelt in  front of grandma and took her hands in mine one last time and said to her "It's Kristen. I came from Indiana to see you. I love you very much!" And in a quiet voice, my grandma said "I love you too."  Maybe there was a brief connection there with her, maybe not. Whether she remembers it or not is not what matters. I remember it, and I remember her. And that's why I was there, hard as it was for me.