“Don’t worry, she doesn’t even know you’re here.” A former friend spoke these words to me over a year ago. My grandmother/ Oma has severe dementia and for the most part does not remember who I am. This ex friend wanted us to go snowboarding rather than my Sunday visit with her. What I realized much later is that this is a sickness in society today. Just because people are not aware, not checking, not looking does not mean that one can forget obligations. Obligations, although cumbersome at times, need to be lived up to and faced.
Older, vulnerable people fall prey to scams all the time. Many of them are lonely and a phone call means the world to them. Scam artists feed on this obtaining information and stealing thousands of dollars each year. As a family we’ve been through it all. My grandmother gave out credit card numbers and wrote checks to people just because they sounded “nice.” Once we realized what was happening we could protect her. Others are not as lucky. Their families may be out of state or often not aware that dementia or Alzheimer’s has set in.
I was fairly young when all this happened, about eight or so. I remember feeling as though she was slipping away from me…as though our strong bond would change. It has changed although now I am her protector and her advocate. I watch her at the memory care center, take her to church, and make sure her laundry is delivered. Does she recognize me? Often times, no. But there are moments of clarity and deep genuine awareness of who I am and how we are connected. As she marches through this terrible disease I know she feels security in our presence. Before we moved to Minneapolis I walked with her on the beach in Connecticut just before our flight here. I asked her if she was scared of this disease. She looked at me and just said, “Whatever is happening to me is up to God. He has a plan and I trust him.” At the time I felt her answer was simplistic and naïve. I was angry at God…how could he do this to her? As she slips away I see glimmers of the old Oma, a fleeting glance of recognition, a hearty laugh and always prayer. She has forgotten names and faces and even her language but always knows the Lords prayer.
What is my belief, love without condition, pure and simple can reach beyond the most tragic circumstances and bring forth great healing and understanding. I know that when she closes her eyes and leaves us one day, I will thank God for the chance he gave me to know her and to love her.
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