“Ma…MA, its right here!” I could hear the amused frustration in my Dad’s voice over the phone. He is staying with my grandma for Easter week and it’s her bowling league day. Eighty-nine years old and she still bowls on a league.
“She spent an hour looking for her checkbook. I gave her a twenty to take with her. She puts it in her wallet. Then she can’t remember which purse she put her wallet in. Finally, I find the purse with the money in it and she forgot that originally she was looking for her checkbook, which is fine because the checkbook is somewhere in the house and now she can bowl in peace.”
The great bowling money escapade. My Grams isn’t suffering from Alzheimer’s. She hasn’t been diagnosed with dementia. She is living with age related memory loss and it is progressing.
For me, losing my keys, checkbook, or wallet is par for the course. I’ve had thirty-nine years of experience of misplacing stuff and disorder. I’m lucky if my clothes aren’t inside out when I leave my apartment. Not her. This is a woman who dropped out of high school after her brothers enlisted in WWII in order to help support her mother and younger sisters. This is a woman who worked two jobs while raising six boys and still managed to make certain that everyone had dinner together. She and Pop moved to SC to help with my brother and I when we were kids. She buried a son and a husband, and carried me through my own troubled times, and still managed to stand on her own two feet. She is a powerhouse. She is also eighty nine and her age is catching up with her.
I can hear it in her voice when I call her; the anger and frustration and sadness and fear that comes from knowing that her mind isn’t as fast as it once was. For a woman who remembered every anniversary, birthday, whose checkbook was always balanced to the penny, who was always the caregiver, these mental slips are a scary, heartbreaking reality. Time is the great thief that none of us can outrun. The best we can do is carry each other through it.
My grams is one of the lucky ones. Everyone in her life loves her. We all want her. Any one of us would gladly take her in our home. The problem isn’t a lack of options. It’s a lack of options that she is willing to take. And I GET it. She doesn’t want to “be a burden”. She doesn’t want to leave her home. Every time I call her and try to discuss it with her, she shuts me down. She isn’t ready. She is the ultimate caregiver, which makes it almost impossible for her to accept the idea that she is the one who needs care.
So we are at an impasse and for now that’s ok. She’s ok. She can’t crochet like she used to, but bowling on a league at eighty-nine is pretty damn good. The time will come when that will change, and as a family, we will cross that bridge when we get to it. It’s so different when it’s a loved one with whom you have a lifetime of memories; a difference that I will be exploring further in my next post.