I drove 800 miles last week to see her. I drove 800 miles because I knew that things had begun to progress more and her mind is failing her even more so than it was 6 months ago when I saw her last.
I have known that she was realizing these changes herself because her calls have stopped coming when her norm is to call me weekly and ask about her babies and when she might see them next.
She has stopped calling me because she knows I’m worried. She has stopped calling me because she knows that I will ask if she is eating or taking her pills.
I drove 800 miles so I could simply sit in her presence and be near her for a few days because I miss our card games, Yahtzee banter, and my heart is heavy for where we are going.
I drove 800 miles to support my grandfather who asked for my help with daily routines and to be a listening ear. So, I listened. We played cards, had meals, and talked about life. I observed the repeated questions where answers were just given not long before, I watched as her body and mind betrayed her when we were out and about, and her frustration with forgetting how to count up cards – something that she was the master of for years and years. I saw several tearful moments on her part as she shared what has been happening, it’s a sadness I have never seen in her face before. I realized that this woman who had helped raise me, taken me as her own, was truly on a path of no return and my heart became heavier than it has been in a long time.
Then, I drove another 800 miles home back to my little family with the realization that my kids will likely not know this woman that I love so much. Not in the way that I do. They won’t get to win gas money from evenings of 500 Rummy won after dinner or enjoy dinners out at Charlie’s Fish House in town.
My mood has been completely off since I returned from this trip and I didn’t quite understand why until last night. I usually cope with family stress well when I know there isn’t much that I can do to change the circumstances. But, this has had a completely different impact. I’ve realized I’m starting to grieve for my grandmother already. It’s premature, because she still has many lucid moments and is still quite independent, but I’m losing parts of her already, and my heart is so, so heavy.
And so, I’m riding this wave of emotions. I’m not really sure what other option I have.