I should be working on a grocery list, but instead I lay in bed staring at the low ceiling and listening to Frazier playing on the tv at my feet. It’s not quite my bedtime, and my to-do list sprawls off the paper and onto the floor. The sunny hours of the evening were wasted sitting at a classy bar chasing my emotions away with a fruity cocktail and a salty burger. The afternoon visit with my grandmother left me sad; a sadness that could only be treated with food.
“She has gotten worse,” my husband said quietly as we walked to our car. We never know what to expect when we pop in to see her. The dementia slowly steals more and more away from her, and I have noticed she no longer perks up when she see us. In two years I’ve watched her slip away slowly, knowing it was only a matter of time before my husband and I could no longer cheer her up. Now when we walk into the nursing home she stares at us as if we were strangers until I announce “hi grandma!” knowing at least that will still register.
Today her memory slipped in and out – at times she got me confused with my mom, other times she would completely forget what we were talking about or lose track half way through my story. The tired staff looked busy as they tried to keep the residents content. And then there was me, thinking I can entertain my grandma and bring her mind some relief. I kept my stories overly animated and short. She smiled, as did the other residents sitting within ear shot.
Before I get up to leave I notice the dry erase board on the wall behind her. It states the weather, the day’s in-house entertainment, and the dinner menu. “Ham and cheese on bread, fruit salad, potato salad” it reads, and I get a lump in my throat. My gram used to be the best cook I knew; I ate like a queen whenever I was at her house. I don’t know if it was so much the ham and cheese that made me sad or the realization that this was it. She doesn’t enjoy eating anymore, and I know it has nothing to do with the food served her. I could present her a plate of all of her old favorites and she would look the other way in disgust, forgetting the things that she used to enjoy.
As I lay in bed I cannot get that dry erase board out of my head, or the way she looked at me when I walked in, or the way my husband just knew without me saying, as we drove away, that I was sad. Life doesn’t prepare one for these things, and my pillowcase fills with tears as I drift off to sleep thinking of my grandmother’s homemade dumplings.