Friday, December 26, 2008

Shadows of the Past

I know she is not the woman she was. She needs help to move from her bed to the couch. She lays on the couch eating chocolate ice cream and arguing with her care givers. Even pictures and stories of just a year ago, surprise me. After all, she was driving herself not so long ago. There are pictures of her at church just two Christmases ago.

The Grace I know always says hello. She always calls me by name. She always has a smile for me. I can tell that she was raised with a certain culture, a certain class. A class that she has passed on to her children. Sure she asks many of the same questions over and she asks me to repeat what I've said. She asks what I'm doing and where I'm going. She asks how I know Edie. Yes, we work together. I can tell Grace loves her by the way she smiles when she hears Edie's name.

The Grace I know has a sense of humor. She knows when I'm kidding. She says "get out of here," and smiles. Sometimes, though, she says "get out of here" when she has lost her patience. Like when she has lost her patience with the care giver for not understanding what she's saying.

Her eyesight is amazing. She can recognize me clear across the house. If she doesn't call to me, she waves.

I know the Grace I see and interact with is not the Grace her children and her grand children knew, but I see shadows of the past. I see the class and culture she has passed on, reflected in them. I see impeccable manners and a sense of humor. I see their heritage. And, believe it or not, I see an understanding and a love.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Shrinking World

Today she woke up and was reluctant to leave her room. After months of not wanted to stay in her room, now she has to be coaxed to leave. Her room has become her apartment; the rest of the house, the lobby.

Her brain seems to take her on trips. One day it was a beautiful wedding. Another she is back living in her house in Evanston. Today she has an apartment. I wonder when that was in her life. Throughout a single day, the days change. Yesterday it was Sunday, Monday AND Thursday. She seems to have enough left to know that it cannot be all those days at once, but her disorientation is becoming more the rule than the exception.

I woke up early to take out the dogs. I stopped in to check on her. At first she did not know me and almost panicked. WHO ARE YOU?!?!?! Then she wanted to know why I was getting back so late (yeah, I always go out in my pajamas).

The day is coming soon that she will not be able to communicate. I have trouble understanding her and asking her to repeat is risky. Repeating requires memory and often she cannot repeat what she can’t remember.

There is snow everywhere, but it surprises her every time we bring it up She isn’t as cold as she has been either. We still wrap her up and try to keep her warm, but she doesn’t ask and complain about it. She also does not appear to be cold.

When my father was nearing the end, she used to say, “He’s having a terrible death.”

I think she is too.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Grace is fading. She sleeps a lot and even awake does not sit up. She is much more docile and less argumentative. Time has no meaning for her. I left for four days and instead of being lectured about my absence, she greeted me as if I stepped out to walk the dog.

She asks for the wheelchair. Before she resisted and refused. She sits slouching at the table while the caregiver coaxes her to eat with spoonfuls of pureed food. All the while she asks if she can go lay down again.

She wears a diaper and accepts it as if she it is perfectly normal. She doesn't even mind sitting in a soiled diaper so we have to be vigilant detecting any 'events.'

Her world is softening. She is in a fuzz. At times she presses for me to sit with her and hangs on to my arm as if she were falling. It is amazing what a grip can be produced by a woman who maybe weighs 90 pounds.

I have called Hospice. I expected to be told that it was too soon. Instead the intake coordinator was extremely supportive and stated that she was definitely a candidate. That very same day we received some additional equipment to help care for her and a nurse showed up to do an initial health evaluation. I feel good about having their help.