Friday, July 06, 2007

On Family

Family is a weird thing.

From birth, you’re placed into this unit of people and told to love them because they are your blood – and because family is all you really have in this world. These people, to whom you are inexplicably tied, come to your major life events, share your holidays, and perhaps, know your deepest family skeletons. They are people who you might not get along with, might not like and might not want to love. But for some reason, you do.

That being said, my mom’s mom and I were never close. She was always cold, brusque, and more than often, curt. She never read to me, never let me curl up on the couch with her and never cooked the dinners she knew I would like. She was vain, opinionated and always stubborn. I begged my parents to not leave me alone with her. It was always awkward and boring.

Though it may seem this way, my grandma has not passed away, at least not physically. She has Alzheimer’s and has slowly been slipping from my family’s grip for a little over two years.

The degenerative process didn’t start the way they say. Loosing keys, forgetting names, and places. She forgot weird things, like how to use the phone, the microwave and the oven. We would call her on the phone, talk for a bit and at some point, she would set the phone down, and walk off calling your name…trying to find you.

One hot, Alabama summer day, she trapped rambunctious children in her storage room. She said they were running through her yard, trampling her flowers and needed to be taught a lesson. At least that’s what she thought. My aunt rushed over to her house, ran from her car, swung open the storage room door and found not one child.

She would talk to you normally, then look to your side, and ask Fred what he thought, or ask you to take a look at Fred, look at him napping. Fred was my grandpa who died when I was in fourth grade. Being alone with her at this point was far from boring as it had been in my younger years, now it was just far too creepy.

The mind is a scary and wonderful thing.

Recently, she slipped into what can be likened to a coma-like state. She’s alive and doing all of the needed bodily functions on her own. But she rarely opens her eyes, she never sits up, and when she speaks, it is barely audible or understandable.

On the way to the beach last week, the Genius wanted to know the reasons behind my desire to see my grandma. What I came up with made me feel confused. I wanted to go and see her, but why?

Was it for me? Yeah. I’m not sure that I would be okay with myself having passed through the very town she was in, and not stopped. And honestly, there was a little part of me that was curious. Was she really as bad as my mom had said?

Was it for her? Sure. If there was any glimmer of hope that she was in there, somewhere in the depths of her mind, I wanted her to know that her family was there. Loving her, supporting her, and praying for her.

Because that’s what family does, that’s what we’re here for.

We may not get along and we may not have chosen the individuals that make up our unit, but this is who we have. The members of our families represent our pasts and our futures.

We are tied to these people as we are tied to no one else in this world. Sure, you can leave them…but they will always be there in your history and I can pretty much guarantee that you will always think of them, be it fondly or not.


patrick stubblefield said...

There is so much I could say about this post. My grandfather has alzheimer's as well (though not quite as advanced as your grandmother's), and like you and your family, we've had a love/hate relationship with him. He's just senile enough right now to be really funny. He was always a little eccentric. He just got in a fight with a man at his nursing home! Talk about a really stressful situation to deal with. We'll miss him a lot when he's gone though.

By the way, your writing is beautiful.

Slave to the dogs said...

Great post. Hope your visit was fruitful.

bobbarama said...

Your specialness is showing. This was a truly wonderful post. I enjoyed it a lot.

Sarah Ashlee said...

Patrick - I've read your post about your grandfather...people in nursing homes getting into fights lends itself to be quite humorous. :-) The whole situation is stressful, more so for my mom than for me. It is comforting to know/think that she's not really suffering. Thanks for the compliment...I enjoy your blog and writing as well!

Slave - It was a good visit. I'm very glad that I heart wrenching as it was...I would do it again.

Sarah Ashlee said...

bobbarama - My specialness...I like that. Thank you. :)

Matthew said...

I lost my paternal grandmother many years ago to Alzheimer's. Of course, as many young people do, I pronounced it "Old Timer's" as that's what I heard it as. After all, what kid didn't think that ALL elderly people go a little crazy?

I remember one day coming into the living room at a time that I was visiting my father (whom my grandmother was living with) and she was sitting on the couch. I asked "What are you doing, Mimi?" and she responded "Watching television." Of course, at the time, the TV was powered off. "Anything good on?" "No!"

Experiences like that can indeed by creepy. I know I don't need to tell you this, but your mother will cherish the support you give her because losing a parent can be incredibly difficult. I was with my mother to help her (and her help me, in return) with the passing of my maternal grandmother. Good on ya for stopping to visit.