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Gratitude for Dementia

The matriarch in my family, my maternal grandmother, my Mimi, is living with dementia.

Or dying with declining memory?

Honesty around the situation is hard to come by, as her caregivers are paid to be positive and I haven’t lived near her for over a decade to deduce enough about her health myself. Nor do I have a background in Alzheimers, nor experience dealing with nursing homes…

So, really, why am I so driven to become involved?

The woman raised me, and I owe her three decades of love. I was within walking distance of her home growing up, so she wasn’t a holidays-only kind of relative. She taught me etiquette, respect, the importance of being polite, and the inclination to be kind. She encouraged me to try everything, and she supported me through my changing interests. She made sure I had a ride to piano lessons, a leotard for ballet, a trunk for summer camp, and a helmet for horseback riding. She let me read every book my aunts and uncles and mom left in her library, such that I will always recognize the dusty smell of Nancy Drew. She sat by the pool to lifeguard as I swam for hours and hours and hours. She invited me down to her condo in Florida, never hesitating to make me brownies or pour me a glass of orange juice. She hugged me when I cried that my brother was a bully, and took my temperature when I lay coughing on her couch. She was a nurse in WWII, so that thermometer went up my rear end, you betcha! I was “Sarah Beara,” or “My Chicken,” and she wrote me letters on scrap pieces of paper when she didn’t have time to go out and buy cards.

So, really, why am I so driven to become involved?

I wasn’t for so long, so this was overdue. I cried tears of joy when she recognized me this week. It was a gamble, but I knew if I was positive and smiling from the inside out, she would feel into her memory bank and know me. I am ashamed to say I was the one that almost didn’t recognize her, as the Mimi I grew up with worshiped the hair dresser. I remember driving into downtown New Haven in her golden sedan, listening to classics from the 50s, salivating like Pavlov’s dog as we pulled up to the salon because they always served me the best & butteriest sugar cookies. She sat under the adorably stereotypical hair dryer that made her look like a very sterile alien, reading a magazine like Good Housekeeping. The story in my family goes that everyone’s neurotic tendencies come from her, but I credit her for so much more. Of course she went in and out of substance abuse, and of course we grew up anxious. That was the way of society. To dabble with prescriptions and to worry was-IS-the norm To fear or to become preoccupied by what might go wrong or what might not have gone as well as it could have seems like a common denominator for this generation. How they coped is their karma. I’m not blaming an inclination to self medicate on her; I’m thanking her for teaching me that drinking white wine all night is totally acceptable, as long as we put a few ice cubes in it. I’m visiting New England so I can keep learning her wisdom, and sitting with the sadness that washes over me as she gently slips towards un-knowing me. I’m involving myself because its about time, before I may not have any more time. A great teacher of mine once recounted a visit she had with her father, who does not recognize her any longer, telling me that she likes to sing to him and send him reiki. I think Mimi would be VERY confused if I tried to explain this kind of woo-woo, so I don’t bother. I sit, and laugh, and chat, and leave when I intuitively know she’s probably had enough.

So, really, why am I so driven to become involved?

Do I feel like I slightly abandoned her these past few years? Of course. And, no. She has always told me to be happy, work hard and take care of myself. I spent ample time writing her letters, calling her back in the days when she liked to talk, and loving my time out west, away but never separate. She’s really never cared about me obtaining a career with a salary to brag about, despite our competitive East coast environment, so I never felt like I failed her. It was more important that I said “Yes, thank you,” instead of “yea, okay,” and I make sure to notice when a nice gentleman holds the door open for me to make her proud.

So, really, why am I so driven to become involved?

Well, now I’m really excited that I have, so it seems my drive was divinely inspired. I sat with Mimi for a few hours this week, knotting a crystal necklace and chatting with various visitors about why I work with semi-precious stones. She asked me a few times what I was doing, but by the end she said my mala was very pretty and even held the beads in her hand. One of her nurses booked me to do a little activity with the whole group next week, and I cannot wait to see her again so soon.

In her room, I placed one of my treasures, a Golden Lumerian record keeper from Brazil, and prayed to the crystal that its Christ Consciousness energy be transmuted to her, that may she feel peace, peace, peace. That she may feel the gratitude and joy she has passed down her lineage. That we all transition with pure love in our hearts.

Sarah AlbertComment