Saturday, September 18, 2010

In and of Memory

My grandmother died a little over a year ago.  I suppose I should have written this post on the anniversary of her death, but I think the truth is that the actual date doesn't stick with me.  For one, we were going through quite a lot as a family at the time.  Without judgement, the anniversary of my Dad's brain hemorrhage is the one that stuck out for me this year.  But I think that the real reason the date of her death seems to slide around in my brain, never really taking hold, is that I didn't really lose her all at once, on that day.  Grams had Alzheimer's disease - a disease that takes your loved ones away little by little, piece by piece.  It is as if she slowly faded away and then one day in August of last year she left altogether.

I miss her.  But I realized soon after she died, that I had been missing her for a long time.  So this missing her, this feeling of loss -it's not really new.  And it's not particularly tied to August 17, 2009.  So instead of writing a post about Grams on the anniversary of her death, I am writing it today.  Because in a week I will be walking in Newport, RI with Gordon, Lily, Quinn, Mom, Dad, Eric, Liza and my cousins Lisa, Eric and Victoria.  We will be walking in the Memory Walk on a team called "Reggie's Runners" in memory of Grams to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association.   And really it is Alzheimer's disease that marks the loss of Grams for me.

In some ways it's not fair or true or accurate to say that I lost her when the Alzheimer's took hold.  We had many good years with Grams still left.  She lived in a wonderful nursing home called Somerset Ridge where she was treated like family.  We visited often and she spent many holidays with us.  She met both of her great-grandchildren.  We had birthday parties for her and she was there for Easter and Christmas and Thanksgiving.  She is in my wedding album.  So in many ways I am lucky - and I wouldn't give back that time with her -  I am so appreciative that we had it.

But I'm greedy, really.  And I wanted more.  Grams was a caring, compassionate person with so much love to give.  My heart aches when I think about all the time we spent together - the many sleepovers when I was a child, our breakfasts whenever I was in town as a young adult.  She met my roommates, my college boyfriends and she was kind and welcoming to all of them.  But she never really got to know Gordon, or my children in quite the same way.  I am angry at this disease, the one that took her from us before her body was ready to call it quits and go be with the loved ones that had gone before her.  I miss my Grandma - it is not a new feeling.

After she died, I found went digging around and found all the letters that she had written me over the years - after I left home for college and before she stopped writing much of anything at all.  I wish I had found this box sooner - had looked for it.  It is such a gift to read them and hear her voice talking to me through the years and the haze of lost memory - hers and mine.  I am planning to preserve those letters in a photo book, so I am scanning them.  I'd like to share one here - to share a little of Grams and to help me remember.

and here's the text:
Hi Becky       Feb 8 - 001
Just got back from Boston Baker, aunt Bev picked me up and I had a good cup of coffee and a blueberrie muffin.  Eric called me to wish me a happy birthday that was so thoughtful of him.  If he didn't I would love just as much.  I was happy you were with me on my birthday, and thank you for your wonderful card.  I'm so lucky to have two wonderful Grandchildren.  I went to see Aunt Nina with Lisa yesterday.  Uncle Frank is doing better but he has to go for therapy because his foot seems to be bothering him.  Aunt Nina is taking good care of him of course!  I'm going to make meat loaf for supper tonight - your mom's request.  Well Becky I [am] going out in a while to mail this letter.  Take care I care!  If there is anything grams can help you just let me know.  When you come home next time I hope we can go for lunch.  Love and Prayers always God Bless XO

If you've lost someone to Alzheimer's or remember Grams please consider donating to the Alzheimer's Association in her name.  You can find the my page for Reggie's Runners, here. I am so excited that my Mom and Dad will both be walking with us this year.

No comments: