I hadn’t been able to write lately. I hadn’t been sleeping well, I wasn’t able to concentrate. I felt like I was trying to get to the surface, but it was dark and mud coated my mouth.
I didn’t know how to say what’s been going on in my head. I don’t know how to write about things like this.
I first drafted this post a few weeks ago, but things are different now. I originally wrote this to talk about how difficult it’s been to deal with my grandma’s dementia and failing health.
After one particularly bad doctor visit, Mom told me, “She hasn’t had an easy life. How is any of this right?” I didn’t reply. I didn’t know how to comfort my mom over something like this, because I knew there would be no happy outcome.
MeMe’s health declined alarmingly in a matter of a couple weeks. I was told, gently but urgently, I needed to see her soon, because it would be the last time. Mike and I made plans to travel the three hours it would take to see her, but two days before our trip, they stopped accepting visitors due to COVID-19.
The health center she was in posted a picture of her, and some other patients, to their Facebook account, so relatives could see them. I didn’t recognize my MeMe. It wasn’t her anymore. Where was her pretty, softly curled hair that she always kept looking neat with regular trips to the salon? Why was her expression different? How could someone I’d known my entire life look so much like a stranger?
She was gone a week later.
I didn’t post about it on my social media accounts. I knew people would say they were sorry, and tell me to let them know if they could do anything for me. I know these words would be said from a place of kindness, of compassion.
I didn’t want to read those comments. I wasn’t ready. The sheer fucking unfairness of it. Dementia took my grandma’s mind, and COVID-19 robbed me of saying goodbye; my family couldn’t have a funeral because the virus has made it unsafe. We will have to have a celebration of life once this clears up.
We will have to have a closed casket.
But dementia cannot take away the grandma that lives in my heart, and a virus won’t rob me of mourning her and saying goodbye in my own way. I’m still here, and I’m still going to pick up my pen, or pull out my laptop, and write, even if it hurts. Especially if it hurts.
Some of the happiest days of my life were with her at their old farm. My grandma always looked beautiful and put-together. She had a fondness for clothing with sparkle, especially if they were her favorite color, red. She doted on me and filled me to the brim with her cooking. Macon was a small town, without many big stores or a mall, but there were many antique shops, and she was happy to take me to all of them. Her warm, caring personality meant she had many friends. Their phone would ring throughout the day with people calling to say hello, and leaving church on Sundays was always an exercise in patience for child me, because it felt like she made small talk with everyone. She adored cats, and never hesitated to take strays into her home, or leave food for the more feral ones. She showed the same tenderness to her flowers and the cows they raised. Most of all, MeMe was a driven woman, who met challenges with a fierceness that belied her loving nature.
As I have grown, I’ve come to understand that she gave so much more to me than love, nourishment, treats, and time. She passed along to her daughters, and by extension, me, her strength and heart. I am simply one in a line of remarkable women.
It didn’t matter who you were. If you were a living being and needed a friend, a meal, or any other kind of help, she cared.
What an incredible woman I carry within me.
What a legacy.