This past Easter Sunday was the first holiday meal with my family where my grandmother wasn’t present. And while we had additional guests who made the dinner an even more enjoyable event, it wasn’t quite the same without the matriarch sitting in her chair simultaneously loving and judging each of us equally.
Two weeks prior, my grandfather made the decision to move his wife out of their house and into a center for Alzheimer’s patients. She had reached a point where he was unable to take care of her and her condition would likely deteriorate if she remained home. It was a difficult choice, but one that the entire family supported, and now she is able to get round-the-clock care and an environment that will prove more beneficial to her. It was recommended that leaving the home to go to my parents’ house for Easter, so soon after being admitted, might be too confusing and distracting for her, so we proceeded without her.
Since I typically only see my family during holidays, on Monday, I decided, after a doctor’s appointment in that area, that I would go visit my grandmother for a few minutes before heading back to Altamonte Springs. I had never been to her new residence before, so I got directions from a relative and headed over. It was a nice looking compound with two buildings designed to house residents. I parked and headed for the building on the right.
To get into the building, there was a keypad on the door. I put the code in (which was my birthday, coincidentally enough) and entered right into a large, very quiet, seating area with tables and couches. There were about 10 or 15 senior citizens scattered throughout the room. They talked quietly or watched television quietly or sat staring at a wall quietly. In a corner, a nurse (or assistant or whatever) sat, reading a book, quietly. As you can imagine, it was very quiet.
I saw my grandmother sitting with her back to me at the table, a full plate of food in front of her, head down with her forehead resting directly on the table. I walked up and patted her on the back. “Nana,” I said, speaking in hushed tones.
“Yeah,” her voice faded out with a bit of a mumble, not moving from her pose. With her gray curls covering her face, I had to strain to hear her.
“It’s me, Adam. Your grandson.” I added for context, just in case it was a bad day for her. I rested my hand on her frail shoulder, which was surprisingly fragile for a woman who I remember to be so very strong.
“I don’t have an Adam,” she sighed, still refusing to lift her head.
“Yes you do!” I spoke louder, as if that would help lift the fog for her. “I’m your grandson. Robyn’s son!”
“Who’s Robyn?” she whispered, even quieter than before. “hh…ah…hmlhje…”
“What’s that, Nana?”
She continued to mumble something that I couldn’t even try to understand. By this point, I was down on my knees, with my face about an inch away from her, just so I could understand her faintest word. I continued to reassure her by rubbing her back gently with my right hand. “Nana, it’s Adam. Why don’t you lift your head and look at me?” With my left hand, I gripped her hand gently.
“No.” I almost jumped at the volume. “Go away, I don’t know who you are.” Even though I understood that she didn’t mean it, it still stung.
“Nana,” I touched the side of her face, still covered by the curls. “Please, it’s me.” With a finger under her chin, I gently lifted her head from the table, just wanting to actually make eye contact and see if I was making any progress.
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” She screamed, throwing one hand to the side, causing a fork and knife to fly off the table with a clatter. I jumped up, my heart beating a rhythm in my ears.
She turned to look at me in complete and utter fear and that’s when I realized that I had just frightened this poor old lady who was telling me the truth, because I was not her grandson and she was most definitely not my grandmother.
My grandmother was in the other building.