My grandmother, who is almost 90, lives in a nursing home in Minnesota, the state I was born in, and where my mother grew up. Her husband, my grandfather, a WWII hero who was shot down and spent time in a Nazi prisoner of war camp, died a few years ago, and she lives in the nursing home by herself.
She didn't want to leave her home, with all it's memories, but a fall, a broken hip, and her dementia made it a necessity.
One of her favorite things is to play bingo. At the retirement home they keep a stockpile of little prizes, and she always chooses ones she thinks my kids will like, and will regularly send boxes full of these cute trinkets. Beanie Babies and tiny purse mirrors, little tape measures (Jack loves these) and Matchbox cars. The kids always get so excited for these boxes, and it makes me happy and heart heavy to receive them, because I am always reminded she is there, alone, without my Grandpa Baba, and that her little joy is sending these presents to her great grandkids half the country away. I take pictures of them with their new gifts and send them to her, hoping that seeing the gifts and the kids together will be enough for her to remember that she sent the box in the first place.
This week we got another box, and I could barely keep the kids from ripping it apart in the car before we got home. I usually like to sort through it before I parse it out to them, making sure they each get something, making sure she had sent the box to the right place.
Her dementia seems to be not so bad sometimes and then not so good, and it's unpredictable to say the least. Some days she will call my mother twenty, thirty times or more, asking her when she will be picking her up. Asking where Grandpa is. Asking her what channel her favorite show is on. She will leave long, heartbreaking messages, confused, and scared.
And there's nothing to do. When she can, my mom will answer the phone and try her best at making grandma feel comfortable again, sometimes that requires bending the truth, sometimes it requires just outright lying to her.
This day when we got home I opened the box and found the usual trinkets and Beanie Babies but also, it was full of socks. Neatly labeled with my grandmother's name. The kids laughed, the idea that a grandma would send her socks to her great grandkids was so silly to them, and I could barely hide my tears as I shoved the socks back into the box, bringing it to the garage and placing it high on a shelf so they wouldn't disturb the socks before I could send them back, like they were the most valuable socks known to man.
As I shut the garage door behind me I sobbed. The idea that my grandmother, the one who was so full of life, so sharp, so vibrant, she used to take her little fish sponge holder and make it talk to me in this silly fish voice. She used to make that old 50s dish with the mandarin oranges and the marshmallows and the shredded coconut, would always have stashes of our favorite snacks on hand, she used to take such pride in her beautiful home, never missed sending that $25 birthday check on time. She didn't miss a thing.
And now she was so confused she was putting her socks in a box and sending them to me. On the bottom of the box she had attempted over and over again to write the address and return address herself, but had messed it up so she would cross it out and try again in a barely legible scrawl that was faintly reminiscent of the beautiful handwriting that I would always love to see on the cards she would send.
I couldn't handle it. And I sobbed.
There are days when you can't find that source of light, the little tiny sliver to pull you back from a dark day. Be it big or little, you can get pulled under and before you know it you are deeper than you thought, and you just have to keep going. Even if you know you have so much to be thankful for, sometimes you just can't get past the grey clouds to see it all there in front of you.
Yesterday I took the kids to the library so they could get some energy out on the rainy day, and I passed a mother and her two small kids and we made polite eye contact. As I passed she said to me, "Thank you for your blog", and it was the sweetest, kindest gesture. And it made my whole day. It brightened me up. It reminded me to be kind, on a daily basis. To say the uplifting thing, the nice thing, to smile at people and remember that everyone out there has something they are fighting against. Some of it is overwhelming, and some of it is minor, but everyone has something, and everyone can use that little boost.
Thank you guys for reading. If you didn't read it, I wouldn't write it.