I recently visited my Great-Grandma Margie Seymour for Mother’s Day in the nursing home, accompanied by several family members.
Grandma has always suffered from a condition known as “clumsiness,” of which I am afraid I inherited as well, but with old age came unsteadiness on her feet. Two years ago in October, she fell and broke her femur. Even though the leg eventually healed, leaving only scars as evidence, the fall caused the onset of dementia — a glorified form of Alzheimer’s.
First came little slip-ups such as easily mixing-up names when we visited her, and recovering or forgetting to put in her teeth, something the old Margie would never let herself be seen without — a pride she instilled in herself. More obvious indicators surfaced such as convincing herself my mother was her mother or forgetting where she was. Our beloved “Matriarch” was slowly deteriorating. Although it is something that has been hard on my family, we defiantly did more than merely manage but persevere. If anything, our love for dear great-grandma has only grown. I feel slightly guilty at times for not stopping more often to visit.
This lack of visiting is surprisingly not due to my hectic life because I could always find time if needed but rather the pain I experience each time I have to introduce myself as a stranger to the very woman who held me as a child and provided a limitless supply of Tootsie Rolls and bubble gum.
Grandma Seymour and I were never extraordinarily close; however, I always make an honest effort in making her a part of my life. This included things such as staying with her overnight when she was sick or forcing myself to sleep on a much too small bed while staying by her side in the hospital. Not to mention the several occasions we shared small talk or discussed what it was like through the Great Depression. These moments make it hard for me when I look into her glassy eyes and see no remnants of the familiar sparkle that once resided there.
On one particular occasion, Grandma and I were chatting about a friend of hers who was suffering, ironically, from Alzheimer’s. I remember so clearly that afternoon because I still can hear my Grandma’s voice saying, “Lord, help me if I ever get like that. I think I’d rather not be around than be a nuisance to my loved ones. So-and-so just looks silly when she forgets her own family’s names.”
What would Grandma say now if she could step outside of the situation for a few seconds and look at herself? None of us sees her as a nuisance but rather, as bad as it sounds, a person of the past. I will always love my Great-Grandma — not for her Tootsie Rolls — but the lessons I learned from her and her life.
Live each day to the fullest and remain close to your loved ones through situations. After all, you never know when an accidental fall could lead to forgetfulness and a shortage of bubblegum and small talk.
— Paige Barnes