A couple of weeks ago, as an exercise in creative blog design, I posted a photo of my Grandma and me. It's from last October when I last visited. It's not that I am a negligent grandson. I live 600 miles away. I doubt that any of my far-flung cousins make the trip with any more frequency; but that's not the point.
My Dad and I were taking our annual trip to see a football game, and I wanted to visit Grandma. She's been living in an assisted living place in northeast Nebraska for the past 6 years or so. Dad let her know that we would be coming, but only to say he did. When we arrived on a Thursday afternoon, she wasn't sure who Dad was, and she was thrilled to find out that I was her grandson. And although I was a stranger to her, she was still beloved Grandma to me.
At a time when most Nebraska farmwives were just that, my Grandma set out to be a career woman. She succeded. She eventually owned her own grocery store in a small town, and because the nearest hair salon was a town or two away, opened one of her own (operated by a daughter in law) so she and others wouldn't have to leave town to have a nice 'do. When she retired, she continued to deliver food and things to old folks who could no longer get around on their own. There's no one left to return the favor.
Life in the nursing home is not terribly exciting (for a 40 year old, anyway) but the staff does a nice job of taking care of Grandma. There's trips to the store, bingo, church services, etc. to keep her busy. She apparently has no short term memory. She asks the same questions over and over. This annoys my Dad, but not me. Perhaps it's penance for not living closeby; but I answer her questions each time with enthusiasm. She remembers childhood adventures easily, and I try to steer our conversation in that direction.
Even though she didn't recognize me, I could tell that she was thrilled to see me on that October afternoon. And because of her memory issues, she was equally thrilled to see me the next morning when we came to say good-bye.
Her overall health is pretty good, but she is 87 and life at that age is never certain. I will take a few days off of work and take my family to see her later in the summer. Oh sure, she won't know who we are, but she'll be thrilled to see us just the same.