Last weekend on my quick drive through my hometown, my mom and I stopped by the assisted living facility to visit my Grandma Mary. Grandma has had many health scares in the past few years, and always it's hard to know if and when to rush to her side (me being a few hours away.) But she's almost 89 now, and I realize I need to take every opportunity I have to see her. I have watched her transition from my spunky, independent, mobile grandmother to a more and more frail (yet still spunky) version of herself. It's been hard watching her body show the signs of age, but it's manageable.
But last Friday was the first time I've felt the devastating pain I've only heard about in second hand accounts. My Grandma Mary didn't know me. When I walked into her room to say hello, she looked a bit confused, but nothing out of the ordinary. I didn't notice that she had never spoken my name (a "must" for my adoring Grandma) until she was talking to me about "Danny" (my dad) few minutes later. I finally said, "Yes, my dad has shown me where he grew up."
She walked slowly out of the bathroom and said, "I'm sorry, but who's your dad."
"My dad is Danny, your son, Grandma," I said as kindly as I could muster.
I went right to find my mom to tell her the situation and she couldn't believe either. This was a first for Grandma. She had long-ago lost her "social filter" on the things that come out of her mouth, but never before had she forgotten any one of us.
For the next few minutes, Grandma kept asking my mom who I was and calling me Donna--most likely after her niece. I broke down in tears when I called Kevin to tell him of the heartbreaking experience.
We went back to visit Grams two days later. I had my hopes up that her mind would have clicked back into reality, that she would know me and look at me with her eyes filled with pride. We have spent so much time together over the years, my Grandma Mary and me. I never considered the possibility that she would forget her granddaughter.
But upon entering her room a second time, she called me "Hun" and "Donna" once again. And even when my dad tried to tell her I was his daughter, all she could say was, "Well I can see why you'd be so proud." But there no understanding in her eyes.
And so my grieving process begins now. All too soon for my liking.