Monday, June 15, 2009

Something small always seems to happen right when you need it.

Following up on the previous entry about my grandmother and her struggle with Alzheimer’s, the struggle continues, and every visit is a unique experience. There are some weeks that it seems all pieces of the woman she was are gone. Other weeks, she is talking up a storm. And while the words that are coming out may not make much sense, she is communicating, making eye contact, reaching out. And still other weeks, she can somewhat carry on a conversation; a very short, simple conversation, but a conversation none-the-less.

When you enter her room on any given week, you never know which version of the person you love you are going to get. A few months back, there happened to be a not so good day for her that I unfortunately had to witness. It was like her mind was set to pause. I couldn’t get her to look at me or say “I love you”. Nothing. Now, generally I can handle the Alzheimer’s and the nursing home atmosphere like a pro, but that week was different. It’s not often you look into her eyes and see nothing. The incontrollable emotional mess that I am, I started to cry. I usually try to hide any negative emotions from her but on that day I didn’t think she would really even notice. She hadn’t even seemed to notice my presence up to that point at all. To my surprise, as a silent tear ran down my cheek, she looked right at me, and in a complete and coherent sentence, she told me, “It will be ok”. I have no idea where that came from, but it came right at a time when I needed it the most. It may not seem like anything much, but it meant the world to me. At a moment that I feared my grandmother was slipping away (as I know she will someday), she came through for me. She provided the love and support that she has given me countless times in the past.

Now this past weekend was a whole different story. In the beginning she was a little distant, not talking too much and I was kind of getting that look like, “I have no idea who you are.” “Would you shut up and stop talking.” Which honestly, I get quite often. Well, the second half of that anyway. Not really what you want to see from your flesh and blood. But as I continued to try and communicate with her, I got a smile…..and then another….and another…and another. Smiles from her are few and far between and I got four of them within a few minutes. It was amazing. I think she was even making herself smile. It was such a wonderful feeling for her of course but for me as well. She really lives such a sad and confusing life since being touched by this horrible disease, so any signs of joy, for whatever reason, are amazing things.

I always had the feeling that things were happening in my life when I needed them the most; often times, seeing something that would maybe make a situation less scary or sad. We had an all women get together a few weeks ago and this very topic came up. It’s incredible how when you talk about it, you realize that other people experience the same thing; in different ways of course, but the need for what we see, and the calm we get from it is the same.

After my aunt passed away last year, I was sitting in the parking lot of my mother’s church. Again, being an emotional mess, I began crying while my mother was working out the details and what to do on the phone. I just cried and cried and stared out the window. It was March so it was still very cold and I hadn’t seen any Robins yet. Robins, the sign of Spring and hope. As I continued to stare out the window, filled with utter sadness, I noticed my first Robin sitting right outside the car. He just stood there for a while and I just stared at him. Eventually he took a few hops away, then a few more, a few more, and then finally flew away never to be seen again. While it was probably just a coincidence that that bird landed next to me at that particular time, it meant something to me. To me, that bird was my aunt telling me good bye. Letting me know she is ok.

After she died, and the family has the horrible task of going through your loved one’s belongings, one of my aunts found a ring that they thought I would like. I’m not really a big jewelry person by any means. Partially because I just can’t be bothered and partly because I can NEVER find a ring that fits my fat fingers. I actually have one of my grandmother’s rings and I have to wear it on my pinky. Even that’s a tight squeeze. So my aunt showed me the ring and of course I was more than happy to have it. Assuming that, like every other ring, it would never in a million years fit my chubby finger, I politely took the ring thinking, ok, it will be a nice reminder that will sit in my jewelry box until it’s passed on to someone else. I can’t remember why I decided to eventually try it on, but I did and it fit perfectly. Perfectly! I wore that ring to her wake and funeral and continue to wear it in her honor and as a beautiful reminder of who I had in my life for almost 30 years.

Keeps your eyes open. You never know what little “miracle” you may see.

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