I have a young family on my mom’s side. Another way I like to say that, affectionately, is that my grandmom & mom were “little hussies.” My great-grandmom will be 89 on Halloween; my grandmom is 64; my mom is 46, soon to be 47; I’m 28. You do the math.
Mostly, I feel lucky to have such a young family. I mean, how many people get to be 28 with a great-grandmom? I realize that not everyone gets to experience their family for this long, and I’m grateful for it.
My great-grandmom babysat my brother and I when we were little, and she now needs 24-hour care because of her dementia, as I’ve written about before. The role reversal is painful for me to watch; I did not expect to be this young and have to help care for and watch the decline of someone I love. As a young adult, when I began to contemplate death and the future, I really only thought about my mom. I thought about how I’d get to live a relatively easy life (concerning the caring of my elderly parents), as I figured I wouldn’t be dealing with that until I was at least, what, 60? Although I’m not Gram Wis’s primary care giver, I still help whenever I can and care very deeply about her; I’m very close with her. I suppose it’s simply – heartbreaking. I keep thinking to myself that I hope the genetics of dementia disappear and bypass my grandmom and my mom and me because to go through this another two times would be devastating.
My uncle had taken her to the bathroom when a neighbor knocked on the door, so he instructed her to stay put until he came back. He talked to the neighbor for a little longer than he planned. When he came back in, Gram was in the living room, completely naked, sitting in her chair. When he asked her what she was doing, and then told her she was naked, something must have clicked and she realized what she did, and she started crying, apologizing, saying that she doesn’t know what’s wrong with her. Besides the fact that she didn’t know what to do when left alone, so she choose to get naked and go in the living room, she shouldn’t be walking without a walker – she can easily kill herself or seriously injure herself. I could barely keep from crying when my mom told me the story – and this is just becoming common.
I don’t wish for her death; I love having her in my life. But this is no way to live. It’s devastating to watch her because she understands that she’s “not OK” and she “doesn’t know what to do with herself.” She’ll tell you that she used to remember things, or know how to cook, or know how to go to the bathroom … but she just can’t recall anymore. That’s the worst part – her suffering. On her “bad” days, she’ll cry to me and tell me that she wishes God would take her. I can’t bear to hear it anymore. My heart hurts too much for her.
I pray to a god that I don’t even believe in to make the days easier for her. To bring her peace. She deserves it.