Tag Archives: grandmother

Passing Through Madness

She was so much more than this.

Sometimes we have those momentary revelations that we write down and act upon or we just forget them, passing them off as frivolous or a lapse into madness, a simply unacceptable thought or notion. This happened to me more than once in the last year. I never bothered to write any of it down until now.

I’ve been away from WordPress and all of you because everything seemed nothing and then nothing seemed everything.

Now, here, I write what lingers, the remnants of love, peace, and an overall sense of wonder at how fragile and temporary everything we know and understand really is. My grandmother spent the last few months spiraling into madness. She began shutting her eyes and turning off the world around her. She tore off her clothes and screamed for her mommy and daddy. She tapped into a static frequency, her voice sounding like a message from another universe when she said, “Why do we waste so much time? Why don’t we visit each other more?”

My desperate screams of “I love you” breaking into her madness. I found that those were the only words that she understood until her last breath. My tears met the words, “Don’t cry. Come on over and I’ll make ya laugh.”

I spent the next two months visiting her in the hospital and helping her son look for an assisted living facility. Somehow the universe helped us find someone crazy enough to take her and she spent her last few weeks of life surrounded by cats and dogs who were rescued, just like her.

When I’d visit, she’d bounce from one thought to another, then suddenly she’d cup her hands around her mouth and make a sound like she was hollering but it was almost a whisper, “Mom, we’re coming.”

She’d gaze into a far off place and say, “Oh, mom’s got that look. I don’t like it when she just sits and stares like that.” Then, she’d shake her head.

I stopped calling her grandma and called her Bobbye Jean or little girl because that’s who she was. I began to realize that she became grandma for me then the rest of us. That wasn’t who she really was. She was none of those names the world, her family, had given her, the names she accepted and even embraced, creating them to give herself a place here.

She had begun her journey into madness, which I know now was her path to peace. Her revelation had come.

Two weeks before she passed, I sat in front of her while she sat in an old, black wheel chair, which the nurse had put her in because it was sturdy and she wouldn’t fall over.

She had opened her eyes again, and she looked straight at me. I thought for sure she recognized me. Bending her boney, spotted arm, she propped her fist onto her hip then lifted her chin and looked down on me. “Am I pretty?” she said.

I was startled for a second still wanting her to recognize me, to give to me, to be grandma again. Then I realized it was all over. She was dying, and I needed to help her.

I sort of spit a stifled, salty a smile and laughed a laugh of realization and, well, love. “You are so pretty, just about the prettiest thing I’ve seen in a long time.” She then babbled and repeated, hand on hip, “Am I pretty?”

I said, “You’re not just pretty, you’re beautiful.” She acted like a princess and said, “I know I am.”

I kissed and hugged her. I fed her. I watched her as she fell asleep in the wheelchair. I visited again.

When asked her name, she sang, “No-oel, No-oel,…” word for word, perfectly, and in tune. I spent the holidays listening to the song, asking my daughter to play it on the piano.

On December 7, 2014, I drove to her down the winding pathways to the house she was passing through. She sat with her head bowed in that old wheelchair, a blind dog, who had had a stroke also, was resting at her feet.

I cut and cleaned her nails, her body slumped over, her hands limp. I lifted her head to find eyes with barely a pupil. There was no black, just a sea of clear blue.

I kissed the back of her neck and spoke to her, “Don’t be afraid. You need to go now. Mommy and daddy are waiting for you. Your angels are waiting for you.”

Her breathing increased as if she were on the last laps of a race. I left her knowing it was over and later that day she was pronounced dead from cardiac arrest.

I miss her.

I look for her everywhere. I imagine she’s in the wind, the trees, my dreams, but she’s gone.

She’s finally found her peace, the quiet in between.

She was just passing through, like all of us.


Calling Alzheimer’s

Expecting to dial your grandmother and for her to pick up the phone leaves you hanging on to nothing. Loving someone with Alzheimer’s disease is like dropping a container of tacks on the ground and trying to pick them up quickly. It just doesn’t work like that.


You move slowly and it hurts. The tips of your fingers spit blood.

My grandmother has been losing her ability to function normally for about 8 to 10 years. I knew it when she started wetting the bed. I denied it when she called me by my mom’s name. I ticked it off as a common, just tired, momentary memory lapse. I mean, don’t we all forget things?

But, here I am calling her, wanting her to pick up at the recovery center, knowing that even when I’m lucky enough to get her, she’ll call me her sister or her daughter.

I saw her today and she recognized me after I said, “It’s Lisa.” I didn’t want her to call me another name. I just wanted to be me. I wanted her to know me.

She did. We talked. We laughed. I fed her and she giggled making fun of herself being fed like a baby and wearing diapers. I could’ve stayed all day. But, I had to go home to my own family. And, I knew it would get difficult later. I really didn’t want to see it.

I had been at the hospital when she hallucinated and thought I was “teasing” her, trying to hurt her. She screamed at me. I couldn’t do anything. I could only leave and pray.

No. Not prayer.

I Know. Just know. It’s life. It’s just life.

Then, I could only remember. I could only cry and remember her holding my hand through life.

I could remember holding her now spotted, wrinkled hand, swollen with arthritis and thinking that it was the most beautiful hand I’d ever held.

As her memories slip and slide, crashing into each other, disappearing, mine kindle into a fire so hot that I feel burnt. Not crisp though. Those memories burn, light my way into a deep understanding and a perception that having not seen her this way, I may have just clopped through life with the rest of us.

But now I know, I’m very sure, that there’s a light that will never go out. All thanks to a woman who many say has lost her mind. In the midst of confusion…she doesn’t remember someone or forgets who she’s talking to, she’ll smile and throw up her hands, “Oh well, doesn’t matter.”

I throw up my hands too now. “Oh well,” I think, “You’re getting closer to your light.”

Then I pick up another tack.